Pardon for jailed tycoon Nochi Dankner delayed by new police probe
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Pardon for jailed tycoon Nochi Dankner delayed by new police probe

Partial lifting of gag order reveals why President Rivlin froze the clemency application of one of Israel’s most prominent businessmen

Former IDB Group chairman Nochi Dankner (center) seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on April 23, 2018, as he arrives for his appeal of his conviction for stock manipulation. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Former IDB Group chairman Nochi Dankner (center) seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on April 23, 2018, as he arrives for his appeal of his conviction for stock manipulation. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An expected presidential pardon for one of Israel’s most prominent businessmen, now serving a three-year sentence for stock manipulation, has been delayed because he is a suspect in a new police investigation, it was revealed Tuesday.

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court lifted a gag order Tuesday on the new investigation into Nochi Dankner, the former controlling shareholder of IDB Holding Corp.

However, the court only allowed reporting on the existence of the new police probe, not on the details of the case.

Once one of the wealthiest people in Israel, Dankner, 65, was convicted in 2016 of securities fraud over his efforts to manipulate the stock price of his company as it struggled to remain financially solvent in 2012. He appealed his two-year sentence to the Supreme Court, but in an August 2018 decision the higher court added a year to the sentence. Justice David Mintz said the mogul’s behavior had hurt public confidence in the securities market and merited a more severe punishment.

An illustrative image of a Ramle prison (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative: Inside Nitzan Prison in Ramle, February 27, 2012. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Dankner began serving his three-year sentence in October 2018 at Ma’asiyahu Prison in the central Israeli city of Ramle.

Last week, Dankner was suddenly moved to the nearby Nitzan Prison, also in Ramle, prompting speculation about the circumstances of the transfer.

Channel 13 claimed last week that Dankner was moved because fellow prisoners had planned to extort him.

An unnamed senior law enforcement official, however, denied the report, telling the Walla news site only that “Dankner was moved for a specific reason. He is not under threat.”

Former IDB Group chairman Nochi Dankner arrives at the Ma’asiyahu Prison in Lod to serve his three year sentence on October 2, 2018. (Flash90)

The new investigation came at a bad time for Dankner — the same week that his pardon request to President Reuven Rivlin was getting its initial approval by the Justice Ministry.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana signed off on the request on Friday, sending Dankner’s plea to Rivlin’s office.

But on Sunday, the President’s Residence said it had frozen Dankner’s pardon request until the new probe was completed. The Sunday statement offered no details on the new case.

During his initial trial, Dankner did not deny his “failures and poor decisions” in hiring a firm to buy his company’s stock at artificially inflated prices, but tried unsuccessfully to convince the court that his actions had not been criminal. He tried to put much of the blame for IDB’s collapse on reforms in the cellular market introduced by Moshe Kahlon, who served as communications minister from 2009 to 2013. IDB was heavily invested in telecommunications, including controlling the Cellcom cellular company and the Netvision internet service provider.

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