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The Slim Fast Billionaire and the Scandal-Plagued Former Israeli Prime Minister

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Fascinating look at how money travels along the corridors of power. Uri Blau writes in Pacific Standard:

An American foundation paid a firm owned by Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, $1.25 million for “consulting” services, U.S. tax records show. The money was transferred to Olmert’s company in 2012 and 2013, years in which Israeli authorities were prosecuting Olmert for bribery, tax evasion, and fraud.

The private foundation is funded by S. Daniel Abraham, the 90-year-old billionaire and founder of the company that created the Slim Fast diet products. It sponsors the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, a Washington-based institute. Under U.S. tax law, Abraham is entitled to take a deduction from his personal returns of the $5 million he gave the foundation over those years.

That means U.S. taxpayers subsidized Abraham’s payments to the former prime minister’s company.

The foundation’s tax returns did not describe the scope and purpose of the consulting, but a spokesman for the center said it had “engaged Olmert to promote its mission of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict by speaking before influential audiences at distinguished institutions throughout the United States.”

It is not clear how many lectures Olmert delivered. The spokesman named 10 institutions and organizations, which would work out to $125,000 per speech.

They were: Stanford University; Columbia University Law School; the 92nd Street Y, The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Council on Foreign Relations (all in New York City); The United States Institute of Peace; The Washington Institute for Near East Policy; The McCain Institute for International Leadership; the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (all in Washington, D.C.); and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Amir Dan, a spokesman for Olmert, declined to elaborate or say whether the consulting services went beyond the speeches. “Mr. Olmert is a citizen and an owner of a consulting firm. He files the reports on the company businesses to the authorities.”

Olmert became Israel’s prime minister in May of 2006 after Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke and was incapacitated. Olmert resigned from office in 2009 to defend himself against a spate of corruption charges arising from both his years as mayor of Jerusalem and his tenure in the Israeli cabinet. He was acquitted of some charges but was sentenced to six years in prison earlier this year after he was found guilty of accepting bribes while mayor.

Prosecutors appealed his conviction and the Israeli Supreme Court ordered Olmert to return to court to face additional corruption charges.

That trial opened at the beginning of September. On Monday, November 3, the court heard testimony from Shula Zaken, a former aide to Olmert who had not previously cooperated with prosecutors.

Earlier this year, Olmert was interrogated by Israeli police about whether he had arranged for Abraham to pay $50,000 to Zaken for her legal fees. Olmert denied organizing that payment but confirmed he was aware of it, saying, “I knew about it and gave my blessing to it. I am not trying to distance myself from this.”

Abraham is best known for introducing the world to Slim Fast diet products almost 40 years ago. Forbes valued his fortune at $2 billion. He is a philanthropist who supports educational programs both in the U.S. and in Israel. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2014 at 9:28 am

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