New Immigrant From Russia Came to Israel Leaving a $500 Million Debt Behind

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Workers set up in Sberbank ahead of an economic forum in Russia, September 10, 2018.
Workers set up in Sberbank ahead of an economic forum in Russia, September 10, 2018.Credit: Bloomberg

A new immigrant from Russia left behind a $500 million financial collapse when he moved to Rishon Letzion in 2017, TheMarker has learned.

The businessman, Igor Mabelianov, had owned a jewelry store chain, several duty-free shops and real estate investments.

He moved to Israel in early 2017 after declaring bankruptcy in Russia, received citizenship under the Law of Return, and change his name to Yitzhak Mabelon.

In the process, he left behind debts of $267 million to the Russian-government owned Sberbank.

Igor Mabelianov's home in Rishon Letzion.Credit: Ilan Assayag

The bank has sought to have Mabelianov declared bankrupt in Israel. Two weeks ago, the Central District Court rejected the bank’s petition, stating that the bank pursued the wrong procedure and needed instead to have filed a request to enforce a foreign court ruling.

In its suit, the bank stated that it had sued him for 15 billion rubles (around 230 million dollars) in Russia, and that Mabelianov took advantage of his religion in order to flee his financial obligations.

The bank stated that it found him only after hiring a private investigator. Mabelianov is now living in a single-family home in Rishon Letzion, it stated.

The bank argued that Mabelianov’s actions to escape his creditors - surreptitiously moving countries and setting up under a new name - justified launching bankruptcy proceedings against him in Israel as well.

Mabelianov’s response to the court reveals something of his business dealings. His response claims that his business empire was successful until Russia’s 2015 financial crisis, and include some 400 branches of the jewelry chain Yashamka. He also owned duty-free shops at airports in Moscow, Sochi and Novosibirsk.

It presents him as a philanthropist and active member of Russia’s Bukharan Jewish community.

His response states that his businesses ran into difficulties after the business climate changed following Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Ukraine, and the resulting international sanctions.

He also states that his former business partner bad-mouthed him to Russian authorities with anti-Semitic slander in an attempt to take control of their business dealings.

The response states that Mabelianov moved to Israel for Zionist reasons, and due to mounting anti-Semitism in Russia. He adds that he never hid from his bank, and says he changed his name to his Hebrew name. Mabelianov is seeking to start a new chapter in life here, it stated.

In addition, he personally doesn’t owe the bank anything, Mabelianov stated in response. Rather, his companies do; he personally hasn’t backed any of the loans.

The bank appealed to the Supreme Court.

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