After Roman Abramovich and the ZAKA search and rescue organization sued Mizrahi Tefahot Bank because of its refusal to transfer a donation of NIS 8 million from Abramovich to ZAKA, a preliminary hearing took place today in the Tel Aviv District Court, in which Judge Yardena Seroussi said that she was inclined to approve Abramovich’s petition for the transfer to take place.
According to the statement of claim, the bank’s refusal was because Abramovich’s account was blocked because of sanctions imposed by the EU and the UK, and so no transactions could be carried out.
The judge pointed out that the bank had received a request to transfer money from one Israeli bank account to another. "Is it reasonable for the bank to adopt European sanctions when there is no dispute that they do not apply to Israel? Especially when it is a case of a donation to an organization that it helping Israel in a difficult time?
"You argue that the bank respects the sanctions regime, but in this case it is possible to make an exception. This is a case of money in a closed box in Israel that stays in Israel, and for a very worthy and important cause, especially now. Why would that spoil the bank’s reputation?" the judge told Mizrahi Tefahot’s counsel.
The judge ultimately recommended to the bank that it should comply with Mr. Abramovich’s instruction, and, as mentioned, said that she was inclined to grant the petition to order that the money should be transferred to ZAKA.
In the course of the hearing, Abramovich’s counsel spoke of the connection that had formed between him and the ZAKA organization when he visited Kfar Aza, one of the Gaza Strip border settlements overrun by Hamas terrorists on October 7 last year.
"Shortly after the terrible massacre on October 7, I accompanied Mr. Abramovich on a tour of the Gaza Strip border area and a visit to Kibbutz Kfar Aza to see at first hand what had happened. There we met ZAKA volunteers engaged in locating and gathering parts of the bodies of those slain, and we talked to them in one of the kibbutz houses while they cleaned the blood left on the floor of the family home. We were all deeply moved by their dedication in performing true kindness to the victims of the terrible slaughter. When the ZAKA organization approached us for a donation, Mr. Abramovich decided immediately that he wished to help," she said.
Lawyer Carsten Zatschler, an expert on EU law, said, "Mizrahi Bank is mistaken in the way that it presents the decision of the EU General Court to uphold the sanctions against Mr. Abramovich. The court’s decision to retain the sanctions has nothing to do with any connection between Mr. Abramovich and the Russian government, or, as the bank falsely claimed, that Mr. Abramovich profited financially from some connection to the Russian government. The sanctions imposed on Mr. Abramovich were never justified by a direct connection to the war, and no such claims were presented by the EU in the court. The EU court’s decision to keep the sanctions in place was solely based on the fact that the court defined Mr. Abramovich as "a Russian businessperson", because of the shares he owns in Evraz, which, under today’s broad EU regulations, is a sufficient reason to be kept under sanctions."
No comment was forthcoming from Mizrahi Tefahot Bank.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 4, 2024.
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