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Tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak took off in a private plane early Friday morning from Ben-Gurion International Airport. A few hours earlier, his attorney had posted a $2.5 million bond with a court. Gaydamak thus left Israel legally, but hastily and secretly.

Web sites in Russia are reporting that Gaydamak has confirmed he is in Moscow. According to another account, he is in Kazakhstan, where he has a local representative, or may be on his way there. Gaydamak's departure comes a few days before his expected hearing on charges of money-laundering, for which he is not required to be present.

Speculation has been mounting in recent weeks that Gaydamak was planning on leaving Israel. A few months ago he replaced his Russian-speaking bodyguards with French-speaking ones, which was seen as a first step toward leaving the country. Reportedly, Gaydamak's representative in Kazakhstan has been preparing for Gaydamak's move elsewhere. Among other locations, the option of Dubai was raised. A number of individuals who work with Gaydamak were reportedly aware of this possibility, but could neither confirm nor deny it.

Gaydamak reportedly may try to reach an arrangement with the French authorities seeking his extradition on charges of gun-running to Angola, and may move to France during the trial.

Contrary to his claim, it is not likely he left purely for business reasons, as during the next few weeks the Moscow business world shuts down for the holidays. Gaydamak said on Friday morning in an interview with Judy Shalom-Nir-Mozes on Israel Radio that he intends to return to Israel within about 10 days.

However, senior police officials say they doubt that Gaydamak intends to return. Their assumption is supported by a report in TheMarker that Gaydamak has put up his Caesarea home for sale, as well as adjacent lots and another home in Herzliya Pituah.

Despite attempts to enter Israeli political life, Gaydamak never really set down roots in Israel. It is believed that he became more intent on leaving the country after his failed bid for mayor of Jerusalem, which he took as a painful failure. Since he lost the election, he has continually lashed out at the state and threatened that he would not assist people as he had done in the past, saying that those who did so were "patsies."

His inability to gain political office allegedly also stymied his attempts to seek immunity and fulfill alleged promises to business partners in Russia that he could become Israel's "number one Jew," as he reportedly liked being marketed in Russia.

In a departure from the usual coverage on Gaydamak, a Russian Internet site identified with the establishment said that Gaydamak enjoyed freedom of action in Russia, although the Angola gun-running charges were directly opposed to Russian interests.