The Bottom Line / Kobi, Gaydamak and baboons
When a baboon is pursued by members of his clan, he often uses a near-human strategy to escape: He grabs a baby baboon from one of the females and holds it out between him and his pursuers. He knows very well that none of the other baboons would risk harming the baby just to punish the fleeing baboon - who is now "protecting" one of the clan's young.
This is almost the same strategy that Kobi Alexander chose to use last week. The ex-CEO and founder of Comverse was arrested in Namibia on an international warrant put out by the FBI. As everyone knows by now, Alexander is suspected of fraud - stealing tens of millions of dollars from investors and laundering the money.
"I have invested millions to help the poor in Namibia," declared Kobi in an attempt to free himself from jail and avoid extradition back to the U.S.
Alexander certainly did not invent the trick.
The best-known Israeli fugitive - and contributor - is of course Arcadi Gaydamak. He is wanted in Europe on suspicion of very serious charges including illegal weapons sales and money laundering.
But Gaydamak has spread around tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to transform himself into a model citizen. His largest and most important gift was during the second Lebanon war, when the government's failures enabled him to appear as a savior for the residents of the North; and he set up a holiday camp for many of them far away from the rockets.
As a result of Gaydamak's actions during the war, many feel that the government will now have a very hard time bringing him to justice, if the state prosecutor ever decides to indict or extradite him.
Israel's long arm also extends well into the Diaspora, in order to gather some rather disreputable donations - and to provide moral support for criminals.
Take Marc Rich for example. He is suspected of a very long list of financial felonies including tax fraud worth tens of millions of dollars. But he, too, is still a close friend of the Israeli powers that be. A few years ago, there was an investigation into suspicions that former prime minister Ehud Barak used his influence with Bill Clinton to get the then American president to pardon Rich.
It is worth remembering that Israel is not the only beneficiary of Rich's largesse. His wife Denise has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish the Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas. The Rich family seems to be avowed library lovers, since they also contributed generously to the library on the campus of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
The battle against such examples is complicated. It is impossible to ban a person, whether only a suspect or even a convicted criminal, from giving away his own money to charity.
But it is possible to expect from social-welfare organizations, from non-profit groups, and in particular cultural and educational institutions, to avoid as much as possible soliciting donations from suspects, defendants and criminals.
It is probably necessary to explain to the recipients of such tainted gifts that they are likely to have to return the contributions if it turns out that they were made with money made in an improper manner.