Rivlin holds off on pardon for jailed tycoon Nochi Dankner
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Rivlin holds off on pardon for jailed tycoon Nochi Dankner

President won’t consider clemency for former IDB Holding Corp. chief until unspecified probe of his activities in prison is complete

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)

President Reuven Rivlin will not consider a pardon request for a prominent businessman imprisoned on securities-related offenses until a probe into his alleged misbehavior in prison is complete, the president’s office said on Sunday.

The statement comes just two days after Justice Minister Amir Ohana signed off on a pardon request for Nochi Dankner, the former controlling shareholder of IDB Holding Corp., who is serving a three-year sentence for stock manipulation and other offenses.

Last week, Channel 12 news reported that police had asked Rivlin to put off consideration of Dankner’s pardon request following an unspecified development that prompted the businessman to be moved to another prison.

Media reports conflicted about the circumstances of the move, with Channel 13 saying last week that Dankner was moved from Ma’asiyahu Prison in central Israeli city of Ramle to the nearby Nitzan prison after fellow prisoners planned to extort him.

A senior law enforcement official speaking to the Walla news site would only say that “Dankner was moved for a specific reason. He is not under threat.”

President Reuven Rivlin during the Climate Conference in Tel Aviv on November 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Dankner was initially set to serve two years in prison but the Supreme Court in 2018 tacked on another year when he appealed the sentence, citing his role in carrying out millions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent transactions in an attempt to influence the share price of his troubled company.

He had sunk into massive debt with the banks and hit a brick wall trying to raise cash or get further loans.

Dankner, long seen as a prodigal son of Israel’s business community, was often credited with helping rescue the country’s economy at the height of the Palestinian Second Intifada in the early 2000s. Under his leadership, IDB became Israel’s largest holding company and Dankner a celebrity.

But a series of bad business deals left IDB saddled with millions of dollars in debt. The courts wrested control of IDB from Dankner in the ensuing legal fights.

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

Dankner was sentenced to prison in 2016. His co-defendant, Itay Strum, owner of a company that managed assets for wealthy families, received a one-year sentence. Both men appealed, and in an August ruling the court increased Dankner’s sentence to three years and Strum’s to two years.

Dankner — once one of the richest men in Israel — was also given a one-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine of NIS 800,000 ($209,000).

In the ruling, Judge David Mintz said that the pair’s actions had hurt the country as a whole by undermining public confidence in the stock market and raising suspicions that trading prices for securities did not accurately reflect the economic activity of the economy or the market.

The judges said that they felt the initial sentence was not commensurate with the severity of the crimes.

During his original trial, Dankner did not deny his “failures and poor decisions,” 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 Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in his previous cabinet role as communications minister.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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