How is bankrupt businessman Eliezer Fishman tied to a single mother, a leading figure in Ibiza’s nightlife, and her partner? What did his Israeli nephew living in Berlin do for him? What is the nature of his relationship with a German attorney and businessman; and are all of them helping Fishman conceal assets valued at €100 million in Europe. These are the new disquieting questions that came up last week in the Fishman Affair, and which members of the Fishman family will soon be required to answer.
These questions emerged from a motion filed with the Tel Aviv District Court last week by Fishman assets trustee, Adv. Yossi Benkel of Shibolet and Co. He asked the court to order Fishman to disclose all his assets in Europe, after claiming that he is still hiding assets in the bankruptcy and company liquidation proceedings that are being conducted against him. The motion joins actions that came to light last January when the liquidator filed motions with courts in Europe to disclose Fishman’s assets that were allegedly being held by third parties and front men.
The motion includes extremely serious allegations that the trustee makes against Fishman and the members of his family, including the use of front men, creating complex trust structures, and hiding assets in Europe valued at €100 million.
The motion is based on a witness statement of Dr. Avi Yanus, co-founder of the business intelligence firm Black Cube, which describes an intelligence investigation conducted in recent months to discover Fishman’s assets in England and Germany. Over several months, investigators of Black Cube, which specializes in finding hidden assets worldwide, tracked down Fishman’s assets, and the trustee presented these intelligence findings to the court today.
The stars in this drama include Shlomo Katz, Fishman’s nephew; and a series of foreign citizens that allegedly act as front men for Fishman for the purpose of concealing his control over a web of foreign companies and assets. The individuals include a 30-year-old single mother, her partner, a German businessperson and a German attorney.
An intricate network
In his motion, Adv. Benkel stated that “it concerns matters whose significance and gravity cannot be overstated, which were revealed to the trustee as a result of a laborious investigative effort conducted by him and at his request in connection with the debtor’s assets and rights, and which ostensibly indicate that the debtor has held and continues to hold assets and rights throughout Europe and especially in Germany valued at least several dozen million euros, through a complicated and intricate web of legal entities controlled by trustees, agents, and legal representatives, who act on his behalf.”
Adv. Benkel also argues that the collected findings show that even after he was declared bankrupt, Fishman persisted in his efforts to conceal from Adv. Benkel, and in some cases even to sell, his assets in Germany that are held through trustees.
The findings of the joint investigation by the trustee and Black Cube, concerning Fishman’s assets overseas are described over the 27 pages of the motion, including a chapter on “Key figures - The debtor’s trustees,” on the individuals who are supposedly the key figures in the intricate network created by or for Fishman for the purpose of concealing assets from his creditors.
Adv. Benkel claims, “Some of these figures played an active role in Fishman’s acts of concealment, and some even served as front men for him, but they all share the fact that in one way or another they all served as trustees who acted in the debtor’s name or on his behalf and held or continue to hold assets for the debtor throughout Europe, whose value is unfortunately estimated at tens of millions of euros”
Holdings in trust
The first key figure mentioned in the motion is Adv Marcus Rise, who the trustee describes as “the central figure who concentrates the intricate chain of trusts for the debtor in Germany.” Adv. Rise is a 61-year-old German lawyer who resides in Chemnitz, Germany.
The trustee claims that Adv. Rise exploited his “expertise” and “contacts” in order to weave an intricate web of entities that own real estate assets that are held by him or by others in trust for Fishman, with the full knowledge that Fishman is the subject of a bankruptcy proceeding and that the concealment of assets for him is also a criminal offense in Germany.
The next key figure to which Benkel points an accusing finger is Shlomo Katz, Fishman’s nephew, a 44-year-old Israeli who has lived in Berlin, Germany for many years. According to the information in the trustee’s possession, Katz established his position as the acting manager of all the businesses of Fishman and the Fishman Group in Germany.
Another individual who the trustee alleges is helping Fishman conceal evidence is Oliver Krader, a 52-year-old German citizen who allegedly has extensive business ties with Fishman and his family “through joint holdings in various entities that are, in one form or another, affiliated with the Fishman Group or holdings of the public companies that were until recently controlled by the debtor and his family in Germany - among other things, due to Mr. Krader’s role as the manager of several of these entities.”
Shares for free
The two final figures in the trustee’s motion are Willibad Dikautschitsch and Mirella Helbet, a couple living in Spain, against whom the trustee initiated legal proceedings in England to disclose their ties to Fishman. Dikautschitsch (52) is a German who lives in Ibiza, and Mirella Helbet (30) is a Romanian and single mother who also lives in Spain. The trustee states that an analysis of Helbet’s Facebook profile and her social media activities indicates that her main occupation was (and possibly still is) in the local nightlife scene in Spain, especially on the party island of Ibiza.
According to the motion, based on the investigative findings, which were the basis for the legal proceedings that the trustee initiated in England, Helbet - who, to the best of the trustee’s knowledge, lacks any economic or business education, knowledge or experience in general, and specifically in the real estate sector - holds the entire share capital of a company incorporated in England that, a mere several months before the debtor’s collapse, purchased the shares of a company incorporated in Germany that was held at the time by Fishman’s children - Eyal, Anat, and Ronit - and by Krader and Yosef Steinman. According to the motion, Dicautshitz also controls a partnership that allegedly held assets for Fishman until their sale. Dikautschitsch allegedly established contact with Fishman (and even admitted that they spent time together in a party in the past) and stressed that the shares in the partnership were given to him, through Helbet who acted on his behalf, at no cost, by Fishman’s children and Mr. Krader and others. The transfer of shares at no cost from Fishman’s children clearly has created a giant question mark for the trustee.
In his motion, Adv. Benkel argues that Fishman reported only two properties of the assets valued at tens of millions of euro that he holds through others in Europe: an apartment in central Berlin, held jointly by him and his wife (a proceeding to liquidate the joint ownership is currently being conducted before a German court), and another property in German that is owned by two German companies, that are owned in concatenation by Fishman and members of his family through a Dutch company.
According to the trustee, the investigation discovered that the parties to which he attributes ownership of assets on behalf of Fishman are closely related to Fishman, and recurrent patterns of their activities and the activities of Fishman’s family members were discovered, suggesting efforts to “distance” Fishman from various assets that are related to him (or that might be suspected of being related to him), in efforts to sever all connections between these properties and Fishman or his family or associates.
Adv. Benkel states that, “These patterns of action primarily are manifest in changes in the records made to certain legal entities that are related to Fishman, mainly between 2016 and 2018, that is to say, shortly before an order of receivership was issued, when it was already clear that Fishman was facing a financial collapse, and also after this period, when Fishman was already the subject of the proceeding and was prohibited from making any disposition of his assets. The changes in records include, among other things, substitution of shareholders and directors who have a familial relationship with Fishman; substitution of addresses connected to Fishman; and transfer to private hands of entities affiliated with the public company.”
A detective story: The investigators’ painstaking work overseas allegedly revealed assets valued at tens of millions of euro
The motion by the trustee of Fishman’s assets occasionally reads like a gripping detective novel. It reveals a sliver of the investigative intelligence methods used to trace concealed assets around the world. The motion describes meetings held under false identities, email correspondence, and the painstaking efforts of investigators overseas to reveal assets allegedly valued at tens of millions of euro, that Fishman was behind.
For example, the motion describes a series of meetings with the German attorney Marcus Rise, who was identified as a key figure in the management of Fishman’s businesses in Germany. The meetings took place with a Black Cube agent, who represented himself as the owner of a financial consulting firm that is exploring how one of his clients, a Russian oligarch in a bankruptcy proceeding, could shield assets from the client’s creditors. In 2018, several meetings took place between Black Cube agents and Attorney Rise. In these meetings, Rise allegedly directed the conversation to describe his very close relationship with Fishman and his family and Rise’s involvement in Fishman’s businesses. Rise also elaborated on his involvement in building Fishman’s “investment portfolio” in Germany (estimated at €860 million, according to Rise). After the operatives presented the intentions of their “client” and his alleged desire to conceal his assets from England and Russia in anticipation of the bankruptcy proceedings that would shortly be initiated against him, Rise told the Black Cube agents about the method of trusts that he devised for this very purpose. In this method, he creates structures of ownership that are held by himself or by others, in trust for the client who effectively and covertly controls the sale of the assets that are held through the structure of ownership.
When Rise was questioned about concerns that the “front men” that he selects for the mission would try to cheat the client, Rise stated that their “client” has nothing to worry about in view of his own credibility and extensive experience. He even suggested that he would serve as the trustee for the assets. One of the meetings between Rise and the Black Cube agents took place in Fishman’s Berlin apartment, and was also attended by Katz, who brought the key to the apartment and introduced Attorney Rise as “one of Fishman family.”
In his cross-examination by the trustee, Katz preferred to deny that he attended the meeting, despite the photographs that were taken at the time.
At the end of the 90-minute tour of the apartment, during which Black Cube gained an impression of the apartment, Rise proposed that their “client” should submit a bid of €8 million to buy Fishman’s apartment (a sum that is significantly higher than the sum that the trustee offered Fishman’s wife for Fishman’s share in the rights in the apartment).
In other meetings, which were attended by Dikautschitsch, Attorney Rise proposed that the Black Cube agents would purchase several properties for their “client,” and his statements indicated that although the properties are formally owned by companies held by him and others, in effect they are owned by Fishman. The first was a deal to purchase a 256-apartment residential project in Wansdorf, outside Berlin, in a package transaction with 85 apartments in Chemnitz, for the total amount of €18 million. When Attorney Rise was asked who makes the decisions about this transaction, he responded that Fishman is the one who makes the decisions. The second transaction that was presented to the operatives was the purchase of a hotel in Leipzig whose value was estimated at €9 million; and the third was a deal to purchase a movie theater in Stuttgart, valued at €16 million and which, according to Attorney Rise, belong to Fishman’s old ownership structure and is currently held by a company in which Katz serves as CEO.
The fourth and final transaction that was proposed is the transaction to purchase a commercial and residential property in Chemnitz. According to Rise, rental revenue is estimated at €305,000, and he estimated that they will soon be placed on the market for €4.5 million.
The trustee further described additional investigative activities and various statements made to the investigators by the key individuals in this affair, and he concludes from these that they are all links in a chain of trusts constructed for Fishman.
“It thus appears that various assets were intentionally concealed from the trustee and from the debtor’s creditors, through the individuals described above, for the purpose of selling them for the debtor’s personal benefit. In this context we recall that the debtor reported no other assets in Germany, other than two properties,” the trustee stated to the court.
Fishman: Re-used demagogical arguments that lack factual grounds
Eliezer Fishman responded through Adv. Shuli Goldblatt, “The trustee’s motion is based on recycled demagoguery, arguments that lack a factual basis and have power only in the press.
“Mr. Fishman has repeatedly stated that there is no truth to these allegations and he does not have a single asset in Israel or abroad that was not fully disclosed in the statement of assets that he submitted on the first day of the bankruptcy proceeding, over two years ago.
“The relief that the trustee seeks is also absurd because if (as he alleges) he exposed the debtor’s assets - what point is there in asking the debtor “to reveal his assets”? The trustee should go to the place where he found the assets and seize them.
“But that is not the case. The trustee did not make any discovery. The trustee did not expose anything. The trustee is simply making empty allegations for the sake of publicity in the press, and to try and justify the fact that he did not identify anything beyond what was originally reported to him despite the enormous fee he was paid at the creditors’ expense and despite the fact that two years have elapsed since he was appointed.
Bankruptcy for debts of NIS 4 billion
Businessman Eliezer Fishman, previously considered one of Israel’s wealthiest individuals, was declared bankrupt in June 2016 with debts of NIS 4 billion. A trustee in bankruptcy was subsequently appointed over his assets. The reports that were submitted in his matter indicate that Fishman rolled over his debts over many years, which gradually grew into billions, almost without interference. According to estimates, including Fishman’s own estimates, even after the sale of his assets he will be left with an enormous debt estimated at NIS 1.5 billion.
In recent years, to repay the debts to some of his creditors, assets and real estate of the group of companies that Fishman owned were sold, yielding hundreds of millions of shekels.
All the while, in the background, fierce battles were being waged between members of the Fishman family and Adv Benkel who is serving as the bankruptcy trustee in this case. In the saga that is known as the Fishman Affair, the parties have exchanged accusations. The core of the dispute centers on a series of motions that the trustee recently filed with the court to void “gifts” and “awards” that Fishman granted to his wife, his daughters, and his son. Adv. Benkel argues that these amount to the concealment of assets that has been planned over many years. Some of the assets were transferred to his children while they were still minors.
On the other hand, members of the Fishman family argue that the motions to void these gifts are inconsistent with the law, and that Adv. Benkel is trying to create “a set of laws from another planet” for the Fishman family. One motion seeks to cancel the transfer of four villas in Savyon to the members of the family, other motions seek to cancel transfers of shares to the family members, and another motion seeks a court declaration that the debts and assets are the joint property of Eliezer Fishman and his wife Tova.
All these motions found their way to the courtroom of Tel Aviv District Court President Judge Eitan Orenstein, who advised the parties to refer the case to mediation.
When the parties accepted the proposal, Orenstein appointed former Supreme Court President Asher Grunis as the mediator by consent.
The mediation process has been underway this past year, but at this stage its fate is not clear. A confidential hearing in the Fishman case is scheduled for next week, and all the details of the hearing are subject to a broad gag order. Additional details of the case may emerge after the hearing.
Fishman’s alleged front men
Adv. Marcus Rise - the focal figure who handles the intricate web of trusts that is held for Fishman in Germany.
Shlomo Katz - Fishman’s nephew, an Israeli citizen (44) and long-time resident of Berlin. According to the information in the trustee’s possession, Katz served as the acting manager of all of Fishman’s businesses and the businesses of the Fishman Group in Germany.
Oliver Krader: German citizen. According to the information in the trustee’s possession, Krader (52) has extensive business ties with Fishman and his family, through joint holdings in various entities that are affiliated with the Fishman Group and with other holdings of the public companies that were, until recently, owned by Fishman and his family in Germany.
Willibad Dikautschitsch and Mirella Helbet. Dikautschitsch (52) is a German citizen who lives in Ibiza (Span) and the partner of Mirella Helbet, a Romanian citizen (30) and single mother. Helbet holds the entire share capital of a company incorporated in England. Several months prior to Fishman’s collapse, Helbet acquired the shares of a company incorporated in Germany that was, at the time, held by Fishman’s children Eyal, Anat and Ronit; Krader; and Yosef Steinman. The shares were later transferred to Dicautshitz who became close to Fishman and his associates. Disclaimer: Businessman Eliezer Fishman is the previous controlling owner of “Monitin,” which owns a 100% share of "Globes." Fishman and Alona Bar On, one of the current controlling owners, are embroiled in a protracted legal, personal and business dispute.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 6, 2019
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019