TEL AVIV (May. 14)
A three-member Tel Aviv District Court said it will pass sentence May 26 on Michael Tzur, former managing director of the Israel Corporation and former chairman of the Zim Israel Navigation Co., who pleaded guilty last Friday to 14 counts of larceny, bribery and corruption. Tzur, 52, is the highest ranking Israeli public official ever to be charged with such offenses. He faces maximum prison terms of 10 years on each of the counts against him which include theft, embezzlement, betrayal of confidence and mishandling public funds.
Tzur was once the “fair-haired boy” and financial “genius” of Israel’s economic establishment who served in numerous high government posts including that of director general of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in the 1960s.
A protege of former Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, he was named chairman of the board of the Zim Lines in 1967 at a time when the national steamship company was in serious financial straits. “He was credited with putting Zim into the “black” after purging its old management and abolishing its money-losing passenger services. Tzur was also a member of the board of directors of the Haifa Refineries.
In 1970 he was named managing director of the Israel Corporation, a multi-million dollar quasi public investment organization headed by Baron Edmund de Rothschild whose purpose was to amass capital for Israel’s industrial development. He was forced to resign from that post and from the Zim Lines last year after it was learned that he had invested monies ear-marked for Israel’s capital development in dubious enterprises of his personal friend and business associate Tibor Rosen-baum, a Swiss-Jewish financier.
The collapse of the Rosenbaum financial empire resulted in severe losses for the Israel Corp. and the Zim Lines and exposed the fact that Tzur had transferred the public monies without the knowledge or approval of the Israel Corporation’s board of directors. Rosenbaum was arrested in Switzerland earlier this month and is being held on ball of 5 million Swiss France ($2 million) on charges of financial malfeasance.
Tzur, who had earlier protested his innocence, is believed to have pleaded guilty to avoid exposure of the details of his financial manipulations and other persons involved in them that would have come out in the course of the trial. The prosecution, which has demanded the maximum penalty allowed by law for Tzur’s offenses, had assembled 47 witnesses to testify for the government.