Israeli tycoon hired Black Cube to smear Yair Lapid in 2014 — report

Billionaire Idan Ofer aimed to dig up dirt on then-finance minister to influence tax policy on natural gas finds, TV investigation says

Israeli tycoon Idan Ofer, left, and Blue and White party no. 2 Yair Lapid, right. (Moshe Shai/Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli tycoon Idan Ofer, left, and Blue and White party no. 2 Yair Lapid, right. (Moshe Shai/Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

One of the Israel’s richest men hired the intelligence firm Black Cube in 2014 to dig up dirt on Blue and White party No. 2 Yair Lapid, according to a Thursday report. Black Cube denied the allegations.

Tycoon Idan Ofer hired the firm to probe then-Finance Minister Lapid and other top officials as part of Ofer’s efforts to influence tax policy on natural gas finds at the time, according to Channel 12’s “Uvda” investigative program.

Ofer, a billionaire with vast holdings in shipping, drilling and mining industries, paid Black Cube to help him undermine an advisory panel appointed by Lapid that was aiming to raise taxes on his lucrative natural resources company, according to the TV investigation. The idea was to smear Lapid and the arbitrators in order to continue evading high taxes on his profits after Israel discovered a large offshore natural gas field.

Black Cube, a company of former Israeli intelligence agents, has drawn international attention for allegedly working to discredit Obama administration officials who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear agreement, as well as to protect the reputation of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Black Cube’s internet homepage (screenshot)

Thursday’s investigation also explored Black Cube’s ties to former Congolese President Joseph Kabila, who reportedly used the company’s services to suppress opposition activists.

Black Cube denied the allegations, saying that it never met with Ofer or targeted politicians, judges or regulators. The company said it was suing the TV show and its anchor in a British court for 15 million pounds. A clerk at Britain’s Royal Courts of Justice confirmed that a lawsuit had been filed but said he was barred from providing further details.

A spokesman for Ofer confirmed that he had contracted with the agency for a brief period, but said that Ofer ended up not using Black Cube’s intel. He stressed that the company gathered evidence only from public sources.

Lapid said in response that he could not be swayed by an influence campaign and he would “keep working without fearing anyone.”

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