Lieberman's Firm Suspected of Doing Business With PA Officials

Police probe focuses on allegation that Lieberman continued trade while serving as MK, cabinet minister.

A company established by Avigdor Lieberman did business to the tune of over NIS 1 million with officials in the Palestinian Authority, apparently selling wood in 2000 and 2001 when Lieberman was an MK, Haaretz has learned. During those years the company's stock was held by a trustee, but Lieberman remained an owner.

The police investigation of the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, the third largest party in the new Knesset, is focusing among other things on the allegation that Lieberman was involved in the business even when he was an MK and a cabinet minister.

Lieberman established Nativ el Hamizrach Israel to do business mainly in Eastern Europe after he left his post of director general of the Prime Minister's Office in 1997, under Benjamin Netanyahu. In 1998, Nativ el Hamizrach received more than NIS 700,000 from a company belonging to businessman David Appel for consultation services on Appel's plan to buy a Greek island to build a resort, a plan that Lieberman advised against.

It was in 1999 that millions of shekels began to flow into the company's coffers from firms dealing with wood and construction materials, in which officials from the Palestinian Authority were involved, Haaretz has learned. At this time Lieberman was already an MK and supposedly not involved in the dealings.

"In the period in question Avigdor Lieberman was already an MK and was not involved in the activities of the company," Lieberman's office said. "Any further response could be considered obstruction of justice."

It is surprising to some observers that Lieberman, with his hawkish opinions on the Palestinians, would have had such dealings. In May 2001, for example, Lieberman said that to stop Palestinian violence, Israel should go into Area A in the West Bank and "crush" the Palestinians.

Also in 2001, in a eulogy to a terror victim, Lieberman compared Yasser Arafat to Osama bin Laden and said "you don't talk to them ... you send planes."

After Nativ el Hamizrach began to flourish in 1999, just before Lieberman became an MK, he established another company, Cyprus-based Trasimeno Trading Ltd. The two firms are mentioned together in Trasimeno's books, as revealed in Haaretz Magazine in April 2007. For example, in March 2001, the Israeli company transferred some $35 million to the Cypriot company.

In April 2001, Nativ el Hamizrach was taken over by the accounting and consulting firm Strauss Lazar and Co. The latter, and Lieberman's wife, Ella, who were the declared shareholders of Nativ el Hamizrach, transferred the shares to a Belgian citizen, Yosef Schuldiner, a close friend of Lieberman, who died in 2006. In June 2001, Schuldiner deposited about $450,000 in Trasimeno's account.

Thus, although Lieberman is not officially listed as the owner of the company he founded, people who worked with him in the Knesset and the cabinet say they recall executives from Nativ el Hamizrach visiting his office frequently when he was an MK and a minister.