Builder Claims Oil Co Hired Mob Boss to Resolve Financial Dispute

Globus International Construction and Development Investments is suing Ratio, owned by Yigal Landau and Ligad Rotlevy, to void an arbitration agreement that had all but taken shape with the firm. Globus alleges the Ratio owners' underworld connections had skewed the process.

Globus International Construction and Development Investments is suing Ratio, owned by Yigal Landau and Ligad Rotlevy, to void an arbitration agreement that had all but taken shape with the firm. Globus alleges the Ratio owners' underworld connections had skewed the process.

Ratio's representatives deny the allegations and say the motion to the court reveals no new facts not brought before the arbitrator.

The arbitrator, Assaf Baram, declined to comment on the substance of the allegations because of the process but commented that the facts claimed by the Globus people are inaccurate, "to put it mildly."

Ratio, a privately held company, is the general partner and manager of the Ratio Oil & Gas Exploration partnership, which is listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

In its motion to the Tel Aviv District Court, Globus wrote that in mid-2007, Landau and Rotlevy met at the home of purported organized-crime kingpin Meir Abergil. Shortly thereafter, Globus manager Shlomi Shukrun and his brother Arie arrived as well, accompanied by an underworld character they knew only as "Yehezkel," whom they brought for their protection, they say.

"Landau demonstrated surprising serenity" under the circumstances, in the situation in general and with Meir Abergil in particular," Globus wrote in its petition to void the agreement and fire Baram.

Also present at the meeting at Abergil's home was Aharon Avitan, brother of deceased murderer Herzl Avitan. Later, claim the Globus chiefs, they learned that Avitan had brought Abergil and the Ratio people together.

The Ratio Oil & Gas partnership owns 15% of the rights to the Leviathan prospect and is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange at a market value of NIS 2.9 billion.

Landau also owns a controlling interest in Union Bank, and has shares in the construction company Hiram-Landau. Rotlevy owns controlling interests in SpaceCom, Lodzia-Rotex Investment and other companies. Landau and Rotlevy own 20% of Ratio directly and through their company Landlan Investments, where Landau is CEO and Rotlevy is chairman.

A decade-long dispute

The bad blood between Ratio and Globus, a privately held construction company, has been simmering for a decade.

In 2001, Shukrun, who owns participation units in Ratio Oil & Gas Exploration, waxed sharply critical of the way Landau and Rotlevy ran the partnership. At a unit-holders meeting in February that year, he suggested they emulate energy baron Yitzhak Tshuva, who supported his share price by buying stock. Landau answered that every time the partnership raised money, he participated.

The dispute reached a boiling point in 2005, when Ratio planned a rights issue to raise money to drill at the Med Ashdod permit area. The issue required the approval of 75% of the unit holders, but Globus refused unless its losses were covered and its investments secured.

In April 2005, Globus agreed to the rights offering and Ratio undertook to pay certain sums to Globus. According to the claim filed yesterday, the agreement stated that Ratio would allocate 15% of its shares to Globus, in exchange for their face value, and would pay Globus $2,000 a month for advice on investor relations.

Globus undertook to vote with Ratio at meetings of the holders of Ratio Oil & Gas Exploration units.

However, back then, claims Globus, Shukrun refused to sign the agreement. He, his brother Arie and Rotlevy then held a meeting at which Rotlevy allegedly promised, verbally, that if the Ratio Oil & Gas Exploration units didn't rise enough in price to cover Globus' NIS 4.5 million loss, Ratio would pay that amount to Globus as well. Then, says Shukrun, he signed.

That day the participation unit holders convened and the rights issue by Ratio was approved.

To this day, claims Globus, Ratio has not honored Rotlevy's pledge to pay NIS 4.5 million, and 27 months after the agreement, Ratio unilaterally decided to stop paying $2,000 a month to Globus.

The parties made efforts to settle their disputes. But then, in 2007 there was a "dramatic development," says Globus.

A sit-down with Abergil

That year Ratio hired the services of crime kingpin Meir Abergil, claims Globus. They say another crime chief, "accompanied by goons," summoned the Globus leaders to Abergil's home.

Abergil, who police believe heads a crime organization in the United States as well, is presently in prison, awaiting a Supreme Court decision on whether to extradite him to the U.S. It was an offer they couldn't refuse, the Globus people wrote. The brothers went to Abergil's home accompanied by "Yehezkel" because they were afraid to go alone, they explain.

"Their hope was that they wouldn't be physically harmed," they write in their motion.

They explained their position in the dispute to Abergil, Globus writes. Abergil told Shlomi Shukrun to come back to his house the next night to meet with the Ratio heads, as described above.

"The Globus managers feared for their lives," the company claims.

When they came back the next night, Landau was there, as was Aharon Avitan, a convicted criminal who today runs security companies.

At first Abergil suggested that he arbitrate but after grasping the complexity of the issues, he suggested that a capital market personality be chosen.

The meetings with Abergil were perfectly relaxed, say the Globus people, "but the threatening message was obvious to all."

Two months later Abergil and "Yehezkel" announced they'd chosen advocate Assaf Baram from the law office of Baram Dahoah, which specializes in capital market and criminal law.

Meetings ahead of the arbitration process began in July 2007. The parties agreed that the claim would not exceed NIS 6 million, and that Baram would name an agreed-upon appraiser to determine the value of 15% of Ratio's shares, that Globus claimed should have been allocated to it. The actual arbitration process began in July 2008.

An agreement born in the underworld

Globus claims Baram treated the parties unequally and blocked them from proving their claims. His appointment by Abergil made him suspect, the Globes people say.

Having lost their faith, they terminated his arbitration services this January, despite Ratio's objections. In February Baram rejected their termination notice, but since then no meetings have been held.

Negotiations between the parties went nowhere. "It was an agreement born in the underworld and the world of crime," they claim.

The Globus people say they have chosen to come forward now since the crime leaders cited in their petition are under arrest, and they feel more secure.

Eli Zohar, legal representative to Ratio Oil & Gas Exploration, stated that shortly before Baram was to hand down his arbitration ruling, Globus motioned to void the process. Its purpose was to "threaten the arbitrator and the parties" by presenting a slew of incorrect facts.

The arbitration was all but wrapped up: all that remained was to depose witnesses for another couple of hours, Zohar claims, and the claim to the court has no new information not presented to the arbitrator.

"It is a direct continuation of a number of attempts to threaten the Ratio managers personally in the past," Zohar said. In short, their purpose was to torpedo the arbitration, no more, he says. He denied that the company or its heads have any affiliation whatsoever with criminal elements and any allegation to that effect is libelous, he said. He also noted that the allegations are against Ratio, the private firm, not the public partnership Ratio Oil & Gas.

Tess Scheflan