Netanyahu: Money Laundering Case is Exaggerated

TEL AVIV (RIA Novosti, by Ratmir Orestov) — Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes the probe of the Hapoalim bank money laundering case has been blown out of proportions.

In an interview with satellite TV channel RTVI, the head of Israeli finance ministry stated that he did not know who benefited from that, although he could say with certainty that "Israel will lose a lot if some TV viewers will think that the country does not need immigrants from the former Soviet Union and can afford rejecting investments."

"As Finance Minister, I can assure you: Israel needs both Russian immigrants and their investments in our economy. Moreover, when a money laundering case is investigated, and I know the subject pretty well and have a through knowledge of the international laws regulating the procedures, the authorities primarily search for evidence indicating the connection with terrorism or illicit drug trade. No one in the world is interested today whether the taxes were paid appropriately. Israel does not care about it either. It is more important for us to attract Russian investments on our internal market," Mr. Netanyahu stressed.

He said, "businessmen from CIS countries are welcomed here, and not only because they are as good as anybody else, but primarily because they are talented professionals. They must emigrate to Israel and work for the benefit of our national economy."

Mr. Netanyahu called the scandal around Hapoalim bank "blown completely out of proportions." "They throw the names around with such levity as if it were a global conspiracy. I suggest we should wait for the results of the probe first," the Israeli finance minister stated.

According to preliminary information provided by Israeli police, former Russian media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky and former co-owner of Yukos Leonid Nevzlin have been named suspects in the money laundering case involving a branch of Hapoalim bank in Tel Aviv. None of them has been interrogated by the Israeli police so far. Russian-speaking Israeli media note that not a single Israeli native has been mentioned in connection with the scandal.

RTVI channel, which has affiliate stations in Israel and the United States, belongs to Vladimir Gusinsky.