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Enquiry THURSDAY, 13 March 2008

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Israel Police: Oleg Deripaska Wiretapped Chernoy, Lieberman

By Isadore Levy

Israel News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel ---- November 20, 2007 ..... On November 5, Israel police announced that they had arrested two private investigators in Israel, Rafi Pridan and Aviv Mor, on suspicion of illegally wiretapping several people in an effort to gather information about Israel Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and businessman Michael Chernoy (Mikhail Chernoy, Michael Cherney).

The police also arrested right-wing extremist Avigdor Eskin on suspicion of serving as a liaison between the private eyes and their employer. Israel Police believe the employer is Oleg Deripaska, the richest oligarch in Russia (his fortune is estimated at $22 billion), a business rival of Michael Chernoy who has been waging a public smear campaign against him. A police source told the Israel News Agency that dozens of pages of material found at the suspects' homes and offices indicated that Chernoy was the target of their "operation", a part of the material relates to his ties with Lieberman.
A source from Lieberman's political party, Israel Beiteinu said: "There is a very clear public relations campaign against Lieberman, and we are supposing that at least a large part of the millions came from overseas and not from Israel."
The police investigation began two weeks ago in response to a complaint from Lieberman, who said that private information about himself and Chernoy (Cherney) had recently appeared online and other places, and he suspected that it had been obtained by illegitimate means from people who knew both men. It was Lieberman who suggested Chernoy's business rival - Oleg Deripaska - as the possible culprit.
Other prominent Israel businessmen mentioned in the documents include Arcadi Gaydamak and David Appel.
Israel newspaper Maariv reports that the eavesdropping was apparently done to hurt Cherney, to secure compromising evidence against him, and to compel Israel's Ministry of the Interior to revoke Chernoy's Israel citizenship.
Eskin is suspected of being in contact with different persons employed by companies owned by Deripaska in Russia and England. They provided Eskin with the funds to carry out professional, defamatory PR campaigns against Chernoy in Israel and UK, which included bribing news reporters and publishing libelous journalistic "investigations", producing and distributing fliers and posters, besmirching Chernoy, and also organizing a lobby against Chernoy among various MKs in Israel Knesset and MPs in British Parliament.
It is suspected that Eskin was successful in recruiting Russia speaking aides and advisers to a number of Israel MKs, especially in the ruling Kadima party, and members of the Israel cabinet to lobby their bosses against Chernoy.
At a hearing in the Petah Tikva, Israel Magistrate's Court, police said that there could be additional wiretaps that they do not yet know about, possibly including some overseas. All the wiretaps discovered so far are in Israel.

Israel newspaper Haaretz reports that the confiscated materials, which include Internet downloads, press clippings and reports from agents who tailed Cherney and other people, detail Chernoy's businesses, his holding companies worldwide, his ties to other businessmen from the former Soviet Union, and his personal and business disputes. They also include information about a highly defamatory book on him written by a Russia journalist Andrei Kalitin, which is due out in Russia soon. Russian media has reported that this "black book on Chernoy" was also commissioned by people close to Oleg Deripaska.
Media reports from Russia state that this covert, illegal operation, code-named "Compatriots", has embarrassed Russia Secret Services. The leaders of Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR) are worried that a further Israel investigation might reveal a major amateur operation of spying and political sabotage, ordered by a number of Moscow oligarchs, which would cast a shadow over Russian special services.
The Russia news outlet Stringer reported that a number of Moscow - based oligarchs (some of them former business partners of Vladimir Gusinsky, Leonid Nevzlin, and Michael Cherney) indeed formed an alliance to neutralize these businessmen who settled in Israel. The alliance's objective is to curry favor with the Kremlin and advance their own business interests: to protect themselves from the former partners' lawsuits, to get tax breaks from the government, et cetera. At the first stage the Russian special services granted tacit approval of this "operation", since the first two targeted oligarchs are the Kremlin's political foes, and the third one is at least not a friend. In order to make sure that the campaign did not look like an obvious vendetta against ex-partners and to get extra points for "patriotism" from the Kremlin, Moscow oligarchs' special services turned it into an unofficial branch of Compatriots program. Its purpose is to establish Russia political influence over the Russian-speaking communities within the diaspora in order to control or discredit their political and business leaders who refuse to toe Moscow's line. In Israel among the former are Scharansky and Lieberman; among the latter, Gusinsky, Nevzlin, and Cherney.
Quoting Russian sources, the Moscow - based (business Internet paper) posted dozens of e-mails revealing how exactly the associates of Deripaska had hatched a plot against Cherney. The Bulgarian newspaper The Standard made these documents available in English.
Oleg Deripaska denied personal involvement in the plot, but the revealed documents clearly show that all the links of the arrested Israel plotters lead back to Alexei Drobashenko, a close associate of Oleg Deripaska, former head of the foreign-relations department of the Deripaska-owned "Sibirsky Alluminum" (SibAl).
This is not the first time that Oleg Deripaska, the owner of RusAl aluminum giant, is being accused of ordering international espionage, computer hacking, wiretapping and subversion against his rivals or former partners. In 2006 a London High Court claim was brought by Ansol Company and its consultants, Ashton Investments. Deripaska's RusAl and Ansol were formerly partners in a joint venture to supply alumina to TadAZ, a smelter in Tajikistan. Ashton alleged that in January 2006 it discovered its computer had been hacked. That "netspionage" was traced back to IP addresses registered to Rusal.
Deripaska denied the allegations, but the British court found the computer forensic evidence convincing and Deriapska hurried to settle with Ansol out of court.
US authorities have long blocked the entry visa of RusAl owner Oleg Deripaska, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Russia's billionaire had been unable to get the US visa due to suspected links to the international criminal community and attempting to control strategic businesses in the United States.
Prior to 2001, Cherney was engaged in charity work in Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, Bulgaria, the US - wherever he did business. He made valuable contributions into Jewish philanthropy in Russia. Following the Dolphinarium terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, the Cherney Fund became the helping hand for all its victims.
The Cherney Fund renders help mostly to the new arrivals, victims of catastrophes and terrorist acts that continue to bleed Israel, as well as to the low-income victims of terror in other countries. Another equally important task assumed by the Cherney Foundation is the media effort in the war against terrorism. Shortly after the Dolphinarium attack, the Foundation published a book called Dolphinarium: Terror Targets the Young.

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