A criminal will never feel at ease in the Promised Land

It just so happens that Israel is turning into a shelter for people, who enjoy quite shady reputation

It goes without saying that no one will ever wish to live in a gangster state. The Israeli community has apparently decided to raise the issue in their country on account of unreliable natives of Russia. European states have been trying to put up social barriers to protect themselves from suspicious people possessing criminal funds.

Israeli officials are concerned about the fact that a multitude of criminals and perpetrators from the countries of the former Soviet Union have found a comfortable shelter in Israel during the latest decade. Needless to say that the social climate of Israel could not be improved on account of this phenomenon. The problem became even more serious after the story with a certain Russian criminal, who owned an immense fortune of petrodollars. It just so happens that Israel is turning into a shelter for people, who enjoy quite shady reputation.

Israelis would probably make up with a business mob if the latter promised to stay away from his previous affairs. It would never be possible, however, if the mob's fortune were made on other people's blood. Intelligent Russian oligarch Leonid Nevzlin, a former partner of Yukos's former CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was not just an illegal migrant or a mafia boss. He has an extensive history of criminal activities in his biography, impudent business with so-called colored revolutions; relations and contacts with international terrorists are quite possible too. 

Mr. Nevzlin was put on wanted list in Russia in January of 2004 on the allegation of committing severe economic crimes and organizing a series of assassinations. This “living horror” has found a comfortable shelter in Israel, where he launched his political activities abundant with dirty intrigues. The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation sent a second letter to the Justice Minister of Israel on July 7th of the current year. Russian prosecutors demand the extradition of Leonid Nevzlin. The letter contained additional information about the conglomeration of crimes, which the “imaginary victims” of political persecutions committed.

The spiritual leader of Russian liberals, the money-bag of Russian communists, the conductor of color revolution on the post-Soviet space – these are a few of the expressions that characterize Leonid Nevzlin. The Russian Office of the Prosecutor General accuses Mikhail Khodorkovsky's former partner of organizing attempts against the lives of many well-known Russian public figures, who either knew too much or prevented Nevzlin from plundering the national wealth. The list includes the chairman of the company Rosprom, V.L. Kolesov, the PR manager of the Moscow municipal administration O.N. Kostina, the managing director of East Petroleum Handelsges GmbH, E.L. Rybin. US senators' criminal pet is also accused of organizing the assassination of the Mayor of Nefteyugansk, V.A. Petukhov; the black list continues.

Israeli officials and prominent public figures did not stay aloof from the dangerous problem. A well-known human rights activist and fighter against corruption Yuji Nudelman and lawyer Yakov Maniovic discussed the subject with reporters during a recent meeting in Tel Aviv. It was agreed as a result of the discussion that Israel should not become a shelter for criminals.

Colette Avital, the chairwoman of the Knesset Commission, addressed to the Internal Affairs Ministry of Israel in 2003 with a request to investigate the fact that Mr. Nevzlin had received the Israeli citizenship and passport within a very short period of time. Ms. Avital said that Mr. Nevzlin was trying to use the Law of Return for his selfish purposes to obtain real estate in Israel.

Ms. Avital's concerns are easy to understand. It never occurred to Leonid Nevzlin to legalize his national and historical roots until the Office of the Prosecutor General stood in his way. Mr. Nevzlin recollected the distant fatherland of his predecessors all of a sudden, when Russian law-enforcement agencies evinced a certain interest in his persona in the summer of 2003.

Nevzlin managed to obtain the Israeli citizenship almost instantly, with the help of his financial possibilities. He did not try to save money on his own salvation: Nezvlin invested in the Diaspora Museum, the Tel Aviv University, the Israel Museum and several other organizations. He also won the support and protection of then Minister Natan Sharansky and Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat, who were personally interested in the above-mentioned organizations.

In addition, Mr. Nevzlin's petrodollars let him receive such honors as the President of the Tutorial Council of the Diaspora Museum and the chairman of the Nadav Fund. This is what happened to the ambitious criminal businessman, who claims to be the arbiter of Russia's fate.

It goes without saying that the Israeli society was shocked with this information. Israelis were especially surprised about the fact that it takes the authorities too much time to settle the question about the extradition of the Russian oligarch. Russia and Israel have always fulfilled adequate international obligations before. Giving shelter to a criminal obviously harms international relations. Furthermore, harboring a cunning criminal may lead to unpredictable consequences in Israel, where problems of terrorism are especially important.

Israelis always watch the development of world news. They could notice a rather strange informational chain in Russia. A well-known Russian journalist put forward an idea to make a reality show called “Catch the One-legged” driving at both a certain persona and the incompetence of Russian law-enforcement authorities. Another notorious journalist from the same liberal camp virtually won the game afterwards, when he found the elusive “one-legged” human being and interviewed him in person.

Petrodollars and shadows of those people, who own them, can be clearly seen in the chain. As long as this performance is possible in Russia, one shall assume that its directors may stage it again, albeit on the territory of Israel. There is enough of “oil money” for it, and it will not be hard to find potential terrorists in the Promised Land.

Is the Israeli government ready to play these games? There is no answer to this question yet. The Israeli community has explicitly expressed its opinion on the matter: a special public organization will be set up to take care of Israel's good name and the future of its citizens. The group will carefully watch the development of the story in connection with Russia's requirement to extradite the criminal oligarch.

Viktor Grzhevsky

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Author`s name Olga Savka