Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A tale of two suicides


The chief executive of Leader Capital Markets, one of Israel's top investment banks, has committed suicide, a company spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Danny Barak, 48, jumped from his office on the 17th floor of one of Tel Aviv's most prominent office towers on Friday, the spokeswoman said.

Barak, who is survived by his wife and four children, did not leave a note explaining his suicide.

"It is a mystery," the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, back in America, in New York City, we have an interesting suicide number two.

NYDailyNews, dated June 18th 2010.

The title is interesting:

Shady, 'thuggish' mogul Solomon Obstfeld ran with powerful pals, no one's buying 'suicide' story.

A wealthy Brooklyn investor plunged to his death from the 19th floor of the posh Jumeirah Essex House - leaving behind a tangle of mysteries, murky business deals and an international bribery scandal.

The medical examiner has ruled Solomon Obstfeld's June 9 death a suicide.

But some associates of the highly religious Bobover Hasidic Jew insist the millionaire father of five never would have killed himself - certainly not without leaving a will.

Another jump from a window, with no suicide note left behind.

In the second "suicide", not even a will.

Lets plod on.

"There's a wall on the terrace. Kobe Bryant could not jump over that - what, a 9-foot wall? Shaquille O'Neal could not make it over. But Solomon did? With no chair, no witnesses, no note, no will left behind?" asked an incredulous family friend.

An interesting way to commit suicide, jumping over a 9 foot terrace wall.

By the by, Solomon was a bit, shall we say... chunky.

A true American, with a true American gut.

Obstfeld, 55, who traveled in powerful international circles and ran the Central Park South investment firm LH Financial, had a low profile - but a host of entanglements.


He made headlines in an ugly fight for control over a Brooklyn condo project.

He was feuding with a powerful rabbi in a rent dispute.

OK, standard stuff.

And his Austrian business partner landed in legal hot water just yesterday in a bribery scandal involving Israeli icon Ariel Sharon.

Uh, oh.

Ariel Sharon, a war hero of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), became a villain of the Israeli political establishment.

He became a prime minister of Israel, and then a few years later the shit hit the fan, as allegations of bribes, backroom deals, and illegal money laundering were all the rage in Israeli news.

Billionaire Martin Schlaff, a business tycoon from Vienna whose tentacles reach from Russia to Cyprus to the Middle East, was recommended for indictment by Israeli cops on charges of slipping Sharon, then prime minister, a $3 million bribe in 2002.

Not too shabby.

Schlaff wanted to open a floating casino near Israel's Red Sea resort of Eilat. Sharon's sons were recommended for indictment, too, for acting as bagmen. Sharon would also have been sent for prosecution, cops said, but he's been in a coma for four years.

Obstfeld was not named in the bribery case, but he and Schlaff were partners in several projects, sources said.

And now Obstfeld jumped over a 9 foot wall - he must have been very determined to commit suicide.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently spent half a day at LH Financial's Central Park South offices, a source said.

Just in case you are wondering, Solomon Obstfeld was of course an American citizen - an ultra religious Hassidic Jew - who was deeply involved with Israeli politicians' shady deals.

I could not find too much on Danny Barak - but as a prominent member of the Israeli financial community, with the country being this small and the elites of it so interconnected, he must have hobnobbed with the Israeli elite, perhaps even partners and friends of Ariel Sharon...

Pure speculation - was he tied to the Sharon case also, in some way which has yet to come out (good luck on that)?

Or is there a more prosaic reason, as "Following the recent sale of Leader Holdings to businessman Dan David, Barak was due to step down as CEO in 2011 though he had been offered to stay on as chairman of Leader Capital Markets(...)".

The two stories are connected by the method of suicide - men jumping from windows to their deaths.

I wonder if they had help while they were in the process of committing "suicide"?

Bonus Material

The Sharon case is quite interesting, actually.

Ha'aretz, dateline June 17 2010.

Title: Police recommend indicting Sharon brothers for fraud.

These are former Prime Minister's Ariel Sharon's sons, by the by.

The national fraud squad has recommended that Omri and Gilad Sharon be indicted for mediating bribery and to indict Austrian magnate Martin Schlaff for giving bribes to the tune of $3 million. The police allege that the bribe money was given to former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

an investigation that began in 2002, after a friend of the Sharon family, South African businessman Cyril Kern deposited a loan of $1.5 million into one of the Sharon family bank accounts. Police then asked South African authorities to launch a judicial inquiry into the matter. The request for the investigation was reported at the time by Baruch Kra in Haaretz.

It was suspected that Kern was a front man for Schlaff, who had economic interests in Israel. Kern transfered the money to the Sharon family from an Austrian bank, BAWAG, which was Schlaff's partner in the Jericho casino. Schlaff was considered a major strategic partner in the casino at the time.

Later, it is believed, Sharon paid back the loan to Kern; however, police suspect that the money was given to a company owned by the Schlaff family. During November and December 2002, two more deposits were transferred to the Sharon family's accounts, totaling approximately $3 million.

Like I said, a fascinating case, in which an Israeli war hero becomes a corrupt politicians, while also involving his sons.

Schlaf seems the main player, and the death of Solomon Obstfeld, who was heavily involved with that billionare from Vienna, will result in no testimony from him.

Who knows - perhaps the Ariel Sharon corruption and vices reached deep into NY billionare Jewish circles, to people other than Mr. Obstfeld.

We may never know now, as that potential witness has been silenced.

To me, it looks like a power struggle in the Israeli "democracy", and it appears that the side to which Arik Sharon belonged is losing - badly. And its financial supporters, around the world, find themselves thro... jumping out of windows.

This is looking very similar to succession struggles in the old Soviet Politbureau, during the days of the Soviet Union, when various groups and cliques waged murderous covert combat with innuendo, gossip, destroying a person's career and professional life and finally even murder.

We, as interested observers, will learn perhaps 1% of the real story from the mainstream media.

The juicy details will, I am sure, remain hidden from us.

Plus ca change...

1 comment:

Michael W. said...

Sharon, was forced out of his position as Defense Minister by a special commission investigating the Sabra and Shatila massacre. What a hero! This commission of course was created by the so called "democracy" of Israel. Almost two decades later, Sharon became Prime Minister with the newly formed Kadima party under the promise that he'll withdraw from Gaza. He kept that promise.

Lets not forget that we know of all of this because the Israeli police is investigating it. The Israeli press is covering it. The so called "democracy" is covering all its bases.

But how exactly is this like the old Soviet power struggle? In Israel, they have elections way more often than in America and power has changed hands through these elections. How exactly does shady financial world effect Israeli democracy? Corruption is unfortunately human nature, but as long as democratic institutions (such as the Israeli press and police) do their best to keep that corruption in check, the people and democracy wins. This as far from the Soviet Union as you can get.