Olmert associates behind loan guarantees for Gantz Knesset run

Olmert associates behind loan guarantees for Gantz Knesset run

Documents show Israel Resilience has NIS 5 million in guarantees from four donors, including real estate tycoon Alfred Akirov and the wife of importer Rami Ungar

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz campaigns in Rishon Lezion, on February 1, 2019. (Flash90)
Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz campaigns in Rishon Lezion, on February 1, 2019. (Flash90)

Two Israeli businessmen with links to disgraced former prime minister Ehud Olmert have put up loan guarantees to back a political run by Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party, according to figures uploaded to the State Comptroller’s website Sunday.

Israeli businessman and property developer Alfred Akirov is guaranteeing NIS 2 million ($550,000) in loan guarantees to Israel Resilience, and Smadar Ungar is putting up another NIS 1 million ($275,000), according to the public documents.

Underwriting another NIS 1 million each, for a total of NIS 5 million in loan guarantees, are Sharon Cohen and Gideon Yaniv.

The guarantees allow the candidates to borrow money based on expected reimbursement of campaign finance funds following elections.

While established political parties are allocated state funds for campaigning and can only receive individual donations of up to NIS 2,300 ($635), new parties such as Israel Resilience must find their own funds and are reimbursed if they are elected to the Knesset on the basis of the number of seats they win.

Akirov, founder of the Alrov company that deals in real state, technology and communications, was a close associate of Olmert.

Olmert, who served as prime minister between 2006 and 2009, was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in 2014 in the Holyland real estate corruption case, one of the largest graft cases in Israel’s history.

He was released from Ma’asiyahu Prison in July 2017 after serving 16 months of a 27-month sentence for accepting bribes and obstructing justice.

Olmert’s wife Aliza still serves as a member of the board of Akirov’s charitable foundation, the Alrov Fund.

Alfred Akirov (L), CEO of Alrov Properties, and Zion Keinan, then president and CEO of Bank Hapoalim, seen on December 9, 2012. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90/File)

Alrov’s name is associated with landmarks such as Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall and the upmarket Mamilla and David Citadel hotels. In Tel Aviv, his group’s portfolio of projects includes the Opera Tower and the luxury Alrov Residential Towers.

Smadar Ungar is the sister of Rami Ungar, a car importer with shipping and real estate interests who was also once close to Olmert.

Ungar’s name was raised in connection with payments Olmert was said to have promised to his former aide Shula Zaken, should she be convicted and sentenced [which she was] for her part in the Holyland real estate corruption scandal.

Ungar denied being involved.

In September 2017, Forbes Israel valued Ungar, now in his 70s, at NIS 3.7 billion ($1 billion).

The paper said Ungar had often been called “the politicians’ tycoon” because of his wide political connections. He is said to be close to Yoav Galant, a former housing minister for the Kulanu Party, who jumped ship and is now on the Likud Party’s election list.

Gantz’ political partner, Telem party chairman Moshe Ya’alon, has reported raising NIS 2.6 million ($720,000) in donations. NIS 370,000 ($102,000) of the total was contributed by Ya’alon and his wife Ada.

All parties are required to record donations and loan guarantees on a special site maintained by the state comptroller and accessible to the public in real time.

Straight loans have to be reported to the state comptroller once the elections are over, but they are not made public.

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