Haifa University - Yuval Tebol - May 21, 2012
University of Haifa. Photo by Yuval Tebol
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A Canadian-Israeli businessman and philanthropist being sought by U.S. law enforcement officials has withdrawn from a fundraiser for an Israeli university that will honor a high-ranking Canadian minister, Haaretz has learned.

Nathan Jacobson, 57, had been listed as the campaign chair for the November 4 Mount Carmel Dinner at Toronto's posh Fairmont Royal York Hotel, hosted by the Canadian Friends of the University of Haifa, sources close to Canada's Jewish community told Haaretz. The dinner's guest of honor, Jason Kenney - Canada's minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism - will receive an honorary degree, according to an invitation posted on the Canadian Friends' website.

"He [Jacobson] has withdrawn as campaign chair and is no longer involved with the upcoming dinner," Hetty Shapiro, executive director of Canadian Friends of Haifa University, wrote to Haaretz in a statement Wednesday. Shapiro would not say precisely when Jacobson withdrew his participation, nor would she comment on whether it took place before or after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

"We had no knowledge of Mr. Jacobson's indictment," wrote Shapiro.

A warrant for Jacobson's arrest was issued July 30 by a U.S. judge in California after the Winnipeg native failed to appear in court for a pre-sentence hearing. An indictment unsealed at the hearing revealed that Jacobson was indicted in 2006 on multiple counts of fraud, money laundering and the distribution and dispensing of a controlled substance in connection with the Costa Rica-based Affpower, an online pharmacy that sold and shipped drugs to U.S. patients without prescriptions from 2004 to 2006.

In 2008, Jacobson pleaded guilty to laundering $46 million in drug payments via his Malta-registered, Tel-Aviv-based credit card company, RX Payments Ltd. That plea was sealed after Jacobson agreed to cooperate with federal investigators, according to court documents.

A member of Winnipeg's Jewish community who spoke to Haaretz on the condition of anonymity marveled at Jacobson's ability to maintain a "business-as-usual" profile in the wake of his indictment and subsequent plea.

"I knew there were some problems," said the source, referring to the abrupt closure last April of Paygea, Jacobson's Canadian online transaction-clearing company that operated in Israel, which a year before had sponsored Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team. "But I was stunned about the plea bargain. Nathan Jacobson was involved in all sorts of philanthropic Israel-related causes."