Entrepreneur a 'victim' of French smear crusade

10th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

MOSCOW, March 10 (AFP) - A Franco-Russian businessman wanted for questioning in connection with a multi-million-dollar money laundering scandal at Israel's largest bank claimed Thursday he was the target of a smear campaign by officials in France and other countries.

MOSCOW, March 10 (AFP) - A Franco-Russian businessman wanted for questioning in connection with a multi-million-dollar money laundering scandal at Israel's largest bank claimed Thursday he was the target of a smear campaign by officials in France and other countries.

"Governmental structures in several countries, particularly France, are conducting a smear campaign against me" and the Israeli banking investigation was part of it, Arkadi Gaydamak told Moscow Echo radio.

Israeli police have said they would like to question up to 200 people including the Russian-Israeli media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Zvi Hefetz and Gaydamak in connection with a scandal centered on the Tel Aviv branch of Hapoalim Bank.

They said no less than 180 accounts through which more than USD 376 million (EUR 280 million) of unknown origin transited have been closed and have seized documents from Gusinsky's office.

Gaydamak admitted that he held an account at the bank in question, but said he only used it when travelling to Israel and added that it was currently overdrawn by USD 1,300 (EUR 968).

The scandal involved mainly middle-level French entrepreneurs, Gaydamak said, adding: "But since their names don't mean anything to anyone, they decided to cite more attention-getting names."

Gaydamak, reported to hold passports from at least Angola, Canada, Israel and France, was previously implicated in an Angolan arms trafficking case that saw Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, a son of the late French president, jailed.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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