Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz appeared today at the Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court before Judge Amit Michles, where he petitioned for the removal of the restraining order on his leaving the country. Steinmetz was arrested on suspicion of bribery and money laundering in Guinea and Romania. His August 14 arrest took place just before his scheduled foreign business trip. Following his subsequent release to house arrest, the court issued a restraining order barring him from leaving Israel. Advocates Ronen Rosenbloom and Nati Simchony represented Steinmetz.
"Globes" yesterday reported that Israel Police and the State Attorney's Office were likely to oppose Steinmetz's petition, and to argue that his leaving Israel now was likely to harm the investigation. The police want to question additional witnesses involved in the affair overseas, and are claiming that if Steinmetz travels abroad, he is liable to obstruct the investigation.
At today's hearing, police representative Ariel Friedman filed a confidential report on two aspects of the Steinmetz affair. "We want to utilize the time we have left. For a month and a half, we have taken dramatic action in the two cases. Steinmetz has a French passport. He has many assets, and could easily reach other places (if he leaves Israel, M.R.)."
Further justifying the police request that Steinmetz be prevented from leaving Israel, the police representative cited "many obstructions of the course of justice recently discovered in the new investigation." He submitted a document to the court describing the alleged obstructions, and asked that the order against Steinmetz's foreign travel be extended until December 18, 2017.
The police representative stated, "Were I able to ask for a longer extension, I would, but that requires approval from the Attorney General. This is the minimum period necessary to carry out actions, the obstruction of which is the subject of real concern. Such obstruction has already taken place in Israel and overseas, as can be seen in the evidence of the witness (apparently mentioned in the document submitted to the judge, M.R.)."
Simchony argued that the investigative unit was in effect asking for Steinmetz's leaving Israel to be barred for 360 days, and that there were no precedents for this. He said that while such a measure was legally possible, it was almost never used. "The court ruled (in its June ruling, M.R.) that there was no concern about obstruction, but merely in order to relieve the police's concern, the restraining order against foreign travel was issued.
"Steinmetz scheduled a meeting that was postponed for the eight months during which he was unable to leave Israel," Simchony pointed out. "Does every development require a renewal of the restraining order?"
The judge explained that in view of what had been presented to him, "There are witnesses overseas who have not yet been interrogated," he said, noting that circumstances had changed since the June hearing at which the court said that there was no concern about obstruction, and the ruling at that time was not appropriate to the new situation. "What has not changed is only that the center of his life and business is abroad," the judge added.
Asked by Simchony whether Steinmetz would now be allowed to travel to London, Friedman and Michles answered with a decisive "Not at all" and "No," respectively. The judge added, "There is a reasonable suspicion of obstruction. The circumstances have changed. It is like a repeat hearing." He agreed that a long time was involved, but stated, "I'm not looking at the length of time he will be subject to the restriction, but at the necessary investigatory actions."
Following consultations, the parties consented to the court's proposal to bar Steinmetz's overseas travel until November 15.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on October 3, 2017
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