Court Stiffens Prison Sentence of Former Top Israeli Tycoon

Dankner clearly intended to influence IDB group's share price and adhered to a joint plan concocted with his crony, court determines

Former Israeli tycoon Nochi Dankner in court at a hearing regarding his appeal.
Emil Salman

Nochi Dankner, who once controlled the biggest business group in Israel, on Wednesday lost his appeal against the severity of his two-year sentence for fraud and graft. The former top tycoon, who had controlled the sprawling IDB group, has now been sentenced by the Supreme Court to three years.

The top court also rejected the appeal by his crony Itai Strum and doubled his sentence from one to two years.

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The three-justice panel, with Neal Hendel, George Kara and David Mintz, sent their ruling by email. They did not hold a hearing with the appellants present in court.

In the ruling, led by Hendel, the justices wrote that Dankner had been one of the best-known, most dominant figures in the Israeli market scene. Dankner claimed he had not intended to affect the IDBH share price, and whatever he did was an attempt to help his friend Strum.

Addressing that claim, Justice Hendel wrote: “But could it be that Dankner’s actions were motivated solely by friendship, with no intention of influencing the share price? That question must be answered in the negative.”

Studying Dankner’s alternative explanation for the evidence, one cannot ignore that there is actually no real or reasonable explanation, Hendel wrote. The former tycoon’s concrete arguments regarding the illogic of this or that piece of evidence could not explain their totality and the big picture, the justice concluded. Nor did Dankner convince that the case against him lacked internal logic, or had been a series of coincidences.

All in all, Dankner clearly intended to influence IDBH’s share price and had adhered to a joint plan concocted with Strum. That closed the case of Dankner’s mental state, which had been the only controversial fundamental in the affair, Hendel added. That was key to convicting Dankner of fraudulently influencing the share price, and other crimes.

Dankner said on Wednesday that he was “surprised and disappointed” by the Supreme Court decision, adding that he draws his strength from his “family and from my love of the state.” He said he wishes the people of Israel a happy new year.

The two were convicted in July 2016 of illegally manipulating the share price of the top company in the group, IDB Holding Corp. They were sentenced in December that year. Dankner was also fined 800,000 shekels (almost $200,000).

IDB Holding Corp had been atop a business pyramid, beneath which were dozens of companies in multiple tiers, including, at the time, Israel ‘s biggest supermarkets chain, Shufersal; one of its three mobile phone companies, Cellcom; a major insurance company, Clal; a gigantic construction company, Property and Building Corp, and much more.

In his ruling, Mintz rejected the claims by Dankner and Strum that no concrete damage they caused had been proved: the justice noted, for one, the serious damage to the public’s faith, given the status of the company involved, IDBH, and Dankner himself.