Romanian prosecutors accused the Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and several other Israelis of conducting illicit real estate deals that cost the state nearly $150 million.
Judicial sources in Bucharest said they believed Steinmetz, a mining magnate, and Shimon Sheves, the former chief of staff of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, as well as the Israeli political consultant Tal Ziberstein, conspired with the Romanian businessman Remus Truica to illicitly bring about the transfer of state-held lands to another Romanian citizen, the Romania Libera daily reported on Thursday.
According to Israel’s Army Radio, spokespersons for all three Israelis denied their involvement in illegal actions attributed to Truica, a media tycoon who was arrested on Wednesday and incarcerated by the Brasov Court of Appeals pending further investigation.
But the Romanian prosecutors say they recorded a telephone conversation between Steinmetz and Truica, in which they discuss the transfer of lands claimed by Paul-Philippe Hohenzollern, a Romanian prince (whose father was the elder son of Romania’s King Carol II).
Hohenzollern was questioned Friday afternoon and later handcuffed and detained in the central city of Brasov, where the probe is being conducted. He denies wrongdoing and says he is a victim of Truica.
A transcript of the conversation published by the daily has Steinmetz asking Truica whether any additional action was necessary to secure the transfer of lands to the prince.
Sheves, Zilberstein and Steinmetz belonged to “a criminal group that aimed to acquire the whole property claimed by Prince Paul as proceeds of crime of corruption acquired by providing money or goods to officials/institutions holding these properties to influence their decisions by inciting, aiding and abetting to commit abuse of office by these persons,” Romania Libera quoted from a document written by the prosecutors, in which they reportedly sought the issuing of an arrest warrant against the Israelis.
Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate reportedly believes that Hohenzollern, also known as Paul Lambrino, hired Truica in 2006 to help him illegally recover a number of properties of which he claimed to be the rightful owner, and he, in turn, allegedly recruited Steinmetz, Zilberstein and Sheves.
The group managed to return several properties to Hohenzollern, local media reports said. In exchange for their services, Truica and his associates were compensated between 50% to 80% of the assets’ value.