Text size

A prominent U.S. rabbi is accusing Guma Aguiar, the billionaire energy industrialist and patron of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, of assaulting him in a Jerusalem hotel in April while the rabbi served as a prosecution witness against the businessman in a civil suit in Florida. Aguiar - who was born in Brazil, raised in the United States and now spends part of the year in Israel - is accused of entering Rabbi Leib Tropper's room at the David Citadel Hotel, assaulting him and threatening to cause him further harm.

At the time of the alleged attack, Tropper was testifying at Aguiar's trial on embezzlement charges brought before a Florida court by the businessman's uncle, Thomas Kaplan. The plaintiff claimed Aguiar misused funds slated for charitable purposes because he believed he was the messiah, a claim Aguiar called "absurd." In June a judge dismissed the case.

On May 24 Tropper, who heads the Kol Yaakov Yeshiva in Monsey, New York, filed a criminal report, and police opened an investigation into the allegations. Tropper told Jerusalem police that on the day he was scheduled to leave Israel he asked hotel staff to help him with his luggage, and when he opened his door he was stunned to see Aguiar and one of his bodyguards - at least one of whom reeked of alcohol - standing next to the bellboy.

Tropper said Aguiar pushed his way into the room, cursed at him and ordered the bellboy to leave. He then pulled off Tropper's glasses and threatened to throw him out of the window.

Tropper said Aguiar told him, "I'll throw you off the ninth floor. You better take a look at the city, because it's the last time you'll see Jerusalem."

When hotel security staff present threatened to call the police, the businessman allegedly said, "I know all of the police in Jerusalem, and they'll listen to me."

Aguiar's bodyguard then restrained him, and returned Tropper his glasses. A hotel security officer soon arrived, and Aguiar and his bodyguard left the scene. Tropper said he required medical attention after the incident.

A U.S. court has filed a restraining order keeping Aguiar from the rabbi and other individuals involved in the trial.

A police investigation was launched following Tropper's report, but closed after only two weeks due to what police called "lack of evidence."

Aguiar's attorney, Eitan Gabai responded to the allegations this week, saying "there was no assault, rather a conversation between the two parties. The rabbi stole from Guma a great deal of money over the years that they were close, and at the moment there was the possibility they would meet, Guma wanted to clarify why the rabbi stole from him. There was no intention to threaten or attack him."

Tropper then filed an appeal to the State Prosecutor's Jerusalem office, claiming that the police hardly collected any testimony from him, the hotel's chief of security or any of the other hotel staff present during the alleged altercation. Aguiar himself was also not questioned.

Aguiar's attorney, Eitan Gabai responded to the allegations this week, saying "there was no assault, rather a conversation between the two parties. The rabbi stole from Guma a great deal of money over the years that they were close, and at the moment there was the possibility they would meet, Guma wanted to clarify why the rabbi stole from him. There was no intention to threaten or attack him."

Last week police notified Tropper's attorney that his appeal had been accepted, and the case against Aguiar would be reopened.

A spokesman for the Jerusalem police confirmed yesterday that the case against Aguiar had been reopened, and that he is scheduled to be questioned in the coming days on suspicion of assault and intimidation.

Aguiar effectively rescued the cash-strapped Beitar Jerusalem soccer club with a bailout to the tune of $4 million in July. Officials at the club declined to comment yesterday on the alleged assault.

Last month, Haaretz reported that Aguiar claimed he had been assaulted by anti-Semitic policemen in Florida, after he was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and drug possession in Broward County in June.