Concerned that allegations of his harassing women would reach the media, the head of Israel’s biggest venture capital fund hired private investigators to thwart news stories about him and gave them a list of young women he had met professionally, the investigative news show “Uvda” alleges.
In a program broadcast Wednesday night, “Uvda” said Rami Beracha, 56, managing partner of Pitango Venture Capital (which manages investments of $1.9 billion), retained the firm several months ago as the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment was gathering momentum in the United States and TheMarker published an exposé on harassment in high-tech.
In Whatsapp messages, Beracha reportedly gave investigators a detailed list of young women he had met outside the office. The investigators were also asked to create an avatar – a fake online personality – to enter closed online forums of high-tech women to see whether his name was being mentioned.
The program also alleged that Beracha asked investigators to follow tech entrepreneur Shahar Kaminitz, who has spoken out against harassment in the high-tech field, out of fear Kaminitz would expose him. Also on BICI's list were three journalists– Inbal Orpaz, Hadas Shteif and Sharon Shpurer, whom the investigators were also supposed to monitor online.
Uvda aired testimony by women about alleged harassment.
“I felt that he was gripping me and I could not move and he put his mouth on my mouth,” said a woman identified as A, a high-tech entrepreneur, describing the end of a meeting with Beracha. “He put his tongue in my mouth. I was just thinking, ‘How do I get out of here?’" said G., a senior manager at another startup who described the end of her work meeting with Bracha at the same restaurant.
“We talked, I told him about the idea and I think it was about an hour, something like an hour, that I was speaking and he was listening,” A. told journalist Ilana Dayan. “Afterward he started telling me a heroic story from his army days. And during the story, he put his hand on my leg. I didn’t know what to do; I could move his hand and I couldn’t move. I wasn’t able to move his hand away, I just changed my sitting position.”
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Responding to the allegations against him in a statement, Beracha denied the claims. He admitted to retaining the firm BICI to conduct an investigation but said it didn’t involve the use of avatars, nor did he ask that Kaminitz or his family be monitored.
“I have never touched anyone sexually or crudely without her permission or forced anyone to have intimate contact with me, either in work or social meetings, and if someone ever misinterpreted my behavior toward her, it was not with any bad intention and I regret it,” Beracha said.
“I have never sought to monitor entrepreneur Shahar Kaminetz or his family. When I understood that he had made me a target of a harassment and slander campaign, I turned to investigations company BICI, which offered me a basic service that would warn me if things were going to be published about me in online newspapers and on the open social networks," Beracha went on to state. "I made it clear to the detectives that there was to be nothing proactive and not to violate anyone’s privacy," he added.
In addition, I have decided to suspend all of my activity at Pitango and take a timeout to deal with the persecution campaign against me to clear my name.
Ronen Raz and Shai Breitner, the managers of BICI, claim that all they had offered Bracha was to help him understand what was being written about him in the public media. His emphasis, they say, was not to do anything proactive that was liable to violate someone’s privacy.
Pitango Venture Capital issued a statement saying in part:
"Rami Beracha is a valued partner, friend and an inspirational person who deserves a lot of credit as a person, as an Israeli army combat soldier, a personal example for generations of combat soldiers who have recovered from serious wounds and one of the mainstays of Israeli venture capital. He always deserves such credit, certainly as long as none of the claims that they are trying to attribute to him have been proven.
"We should stress that we have never received complaints or claims of any kind regarding offensive conduct by Rami towards women. If we had received such [allegations], they would have been addressed with zero tolerance," Pitago said.
"We should add that, despite the fact that we have not received a claim regarding Rami, we have asked him to broadly address this web of rumors. Rami has made it clear to us frankly and openly that he has been dealing in recent months with a personal and organized persecution campaign directed against him and stressed to us with regard to the rumors that the things never took place. We have accepted Rami's decision to take a timeout from his activity at the fund with understanding, to take vacation to focus on dealing with clearing his name."