The Haaretz investigation into funds that Austrian-Jewish businessman Martin Schlaff transferred to highly placed Israeli officials has yielded reverberations in Austria. A day after the Rosh Hashanah eve report in Haaretz, the major details of the story have featured in most of the major Austrian dailies.
"Suspicions against billionaire Schlaff," proclaimed the widely circulated newspaper Kurier. Another popular daily, Der Standard, summed up the story as "Austrian Schlaff in the sights of the law" while Die Presse asked: "Did Schlaff pay a 4.5 million [dollar] bribe?"
All of the newspapers cited the Haaretz report, which disclosed that the National Fraud Squad of the Israel Police was recommending that Schlaff be tried on suspicion of bribing former prime minister Ariel Sharon's sons, Gilad and Omri, through the transfer of $4.5 million to their bank accounts. The investigation also disclosed several other public figures who received funds from Schlaff, including millions of shekels directed to a company that is believed to be controlled by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; $50,000 for legal defense expenses of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in his successful fight against allegation of wrongdoing while he was Likud party treasurer; and hundreds of thousands of shekels for former Shas party head Aryeh Deri's legal defense against bribery charges for which he was ultimately convicted.
The Austrian media highlighted the investigation's findings related to Schlaff's connections to high-ranking Austrian government officials, who, it is suspected, paved the way for questionable transactions that generated funds for Schlaff personally. Schlaff, 57, is one of the most prominent personalities in Austria. He features regularly in the country's gossip columns and financial pages, in reportage on both his business activity and his personal life.
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