Deputy Knesset speaker and Likud MK Oren Hazan allegedly used hard drugs and coordinated escort services for clients at the casino he managed in Bulgaria before entering politics, a report in Channel 2 claimed Monday night.
In one of the documents published by Channel 2, Hazan signs off as the director-general of the Gold casino, which he has in the past denied owning. According to testimonies broadcast in the report, it seems that in contradiction to Hazan's claims, there is no link between the Sunny Beach hotel in Burgas – which he claimed to have run – and the casino. A worker in the casino even told the television channel that there were business ties between Hazan's casino and the Red Rose strip club.
According to the former employer, who said he worked as a driver, Hazan ordered and paid for escorts for gamblers at the casino. "He would send for me, he would call me and say 'go and bring the girls, bring some beautiful girls and bring these girls here', to some place, to my friends," the driver alleged. When asked who paid for the escorts and who they were intended for, the driver said Hazan footed the bill and that they were "for gamblers in the casino, or something like that." A statement by a visitor to the casino quoted in the report seemed to corroborate the driver's claims that he would come and pick up a number of escorts.
The manager of the Red Rose strip club told Channel 2 that Hazan was "the big boss" and seemed surprised when told Hazan was now in politics.
An Israeli tourist who claims to know Hazan even claimed to have witnessed the Likud MK taking drugs, including crystal meth, which was reportedly bought from a dealer on the street. "Two friends went and bought the meth we then went to the hotel and in the hotel we smoked some weed and then crystal meth. I specifically remember that [Hazan] did it" as well, he said.
Hazan blasted the report, at first denying it and then threatening to sue Channel 2. In a statement released immediately after the report was broadcast, Hazan wrote: "Sorry to disappoint you, but your sexual fantasies and the perverted imagination of those feeding you have nothing to do with reality or the truth."
A few hours later, Hazan vowed to take the television channel and the reporter, Amit Segal, to court for libel. "This time I will not allow these baseless and despicable lies stand," Hazan wrote in a Facebook status, claiming he has instructed his lawyer to take initial steps towards a law suit. "Let them [Channel 2 and Amit Segal] come to court and prove these lies presented before a judge. I unequivocally say: There were no drugs, there was no pimping."
Oren Hazan at a party from the time before he was a politician. From Hazan's Facebook
Senior Likud officials were aghast at the findings of Monday’s Channel 2 television report on Hazan. “This is a blow to Likud,” one senior party official said. “If the details are correct, Hazan is one of the most embarrassing MKs Likud has ever put into the Knesset. This is an embarrassment for the Knesset as a whole. This information raises questions about Hazan’s ability to serve on sensitive committees, first and foremost the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.”
Opposition Chairman Isaac Herzog also commented on the affair, calling them claims "serious" and expressing feigned surprise that Netanyahu has yet to respond or take action. Herzog tweeted that "out of respect for the Knesset and citizens" Hazan should be barred from presiding over the Knesset plenum.
Hazan is also one of the Knesset’s deputy speakers and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has reportedly summoned him for a meeting Tuesday.
Hazan, who also heads the Knesset's Committee on Drug Abuse, announced Tuesday he would not be participating in the committee's Tuesday meeting. Hazan tweeted that he had spoken with Edelstein and informed him he was leaving the Knesset early to meet with his lawyers and thus could not join committee's meeting.
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) on Monday demanded that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein remove him from this post. “It’s inconceivable that a person who reportedly pimped women into prostitution and ostensibly connected them with casino clients should serve in a representative position like deputy Knesset speaker,” she wrote. “Hazan’s face is that of the ugly Israeli, and it’s inappropriate that it should also be the face of the Israeli legislature.”
Her party colleague, MK Esawi Freige, asked Edelstein and the Knesset House Committee to open proceedings to strip Hazan of his parliamentary immunity so he could stand trial – though police have yet to even open an investigation into the allegations. “I hope the Likud party will also take steps to oust this pimp, Hazan, from its ranks and force him to resign his job as an MK,” Freige said.
The senior Likud official also noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has been working day and night to convince Likud Central Committee members not to cancel the party’s primary [for choosing its Knesset slate] – and now this report on Hazan comes along and proves to everyone what kind of dubious characters this system puts into the Knesset.”
On the record, however, Likud ministers and MKs declined to comment on the report, as did many opposition members. Several said that doing so “wouldn’t be collegial”; others said they simply hadn’t seen the broadcast. One opposition MK said the Channel 2 report “makes me think we need a mechanism by which the Knesset can oust sitting MKs.” Currently, no such mechanism exists.
Another charged that Hazan “is one of the reasons for the public’s poor image of all MKs. I have no idea if the report’s claims are true or not, but the report itself arouses feelings among the general public that I don’t want them to feel toward us.”
Hazan denied the report, saying "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the sexual fantasies, sick personality and the morbid imagination of yours and those that fed you the story are not founded in reality."