(JTA) – Prosecutors in Romania accused the Israeli billionaire Benny Steinmetz and several other Israelis of conducting illicit real estate deals that cost the state nearly $150 million.
Judicial sources in Bucharest said they believed Steinmetz, a mining magnate, and Shimon Sheves, the former chief of staff of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as well as the Israeli political consultant Tal Ziberstein, conspired with the Romanian businessman Remus Truica to illicitly bring about the transfer of state-held lands to another Romanian citizen, the Romania Libera daily reported Thursday.
According to Israel’s Army Radio, spokesmen for all three Israelis denied their involvement in illegal actions attributed to Truica, a media tycoon who was arrested on Wednesday and incarcerated pending further investigation.
But the Romanian prosecutors say they recorded a telephone conversation between Steinmetz and Truica in which they discuss the transfer of lands claimed by Paul-Philippe Hohenzollern, a Romanian prince. Hohenzollern received the lands a few years ago as part of restitution offered by the state for assets confiscated during communist times.
A transcript of the conversation published by the daily has Steinmetz asking Truica whether any additional action was necessary to secure the transfer of lands to the prince.
Sheves, Zilberstein and Steinmetz belonged to “a criminal group that aimed to acquire the whole property claimed by Prince Paul as proceeds of crime of corruption acquired by providing money or goods to officials/institutions holding these properties to influence their decisions by inciting, aiding and abetting to commit abuse of office by these persons,” Romania Libera quoted from a document written by the prosecutors, in which they reportedly sought the issuing of an arrest warrant against the Israelis.