Bankrupt businessman Eliezer Fishman has assets worth up to 100 million shekels stashed away in Europe, held through straw men and foreign companies, alleged the trustee appointed to his assets, attorney Joseph Benkel, in a motion submitted to the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday.
Fishman is currently in the middle of Israel’s largest bankruptcy case, and owes more than 4 billion shekels to creditors, including 3.5 billion shekels to Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi. He has sold off 1.5 billion shekels in assets since entering bankruptcy proceedings.
Benkel was drawing on a report compiled for the bankruptcy case by the private investigations company Black Cube. The company’s investigators posed as foreign businessmen, and received an offer to buy the assets from a German attorney, Markus Risa, working on behalf of Fishman. The negotiations involved Fishman’s nephew, Shlomo Katz, a businessman living in Berlin.
The report also mentions another three German citizens, whom Benkel believes to be straw men working on behalf of Fishman.
Benkel alleged that Fishman “is still trying, even after being declared bankrupt, to hide from the trustee and even cash in on his assets in Germany, via trustees, contrary to his obligation to transfer these assets into the bankruptcy fund.”
When Fishman was going through bankruptcy proceedings, several of the companies that Black Cube alleges belong to him tried to change their addresses and management, including “by replacing shareholders and board members who are associated with the Fishman family,” said Benkel. Benkel said he suspected the assets were being held by Katz and the Germans in order to distance them from Fishman.
Black Cube’s investigators contacted Risa, posing as representatives of a Russian oligarch seeking to hide assets in Britain and Russia. In a meeting with him, they detailed his methods for allegedly hiding assets. He allegedly drew examples from Fishman’s bankruptcy case, and came off as very knowledgeable about it.
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Risa offered to sell the investigators a Berlin apartment for 8 million euros that he said belonged to Fishman and his wife. Katz came with the key to show them the apartment.
Benkel said that in one meeting, Risa said that while Fishman “officially” has no assets, “he has assets, and he [Risa] is still taking care of some things for him, including a deal to buy a hotel.”
Benkel said Risa also offered the investigators a chance to buy a project in which 265 apartments are being built in Fohnsdorf, near Berlin, worth 18 million euros; a Leipzig hotel worth 9 million euros; a theater in Stuttgart worth 16 million euros; and a commercial and residential development worth 4.5 million euros. All these assets belong to Fishman, Benkel said.
Risa sent the investigators documents indicating that the total value of assets for sale was 100 million euros, said Benkel.
When questioned by Benkel about showing the apartment, Katz said he didn’t remember. Regarding the discussions about the asset sales, he said he and Risa had planned to earn commission and that “these are assets owned by all sorts of legal entities.” Regarding whether he helped edit a file listing the details of the documents, as Benkel said the investigators found, Katz said it was possible but he didn’t remember.
Benkel asked the court to order Fishman to provide detailed information about the European assets.