Arcadi Aleksandrovich Gaydamak (Hebrew: ארקדי אלכסנדרוביץ' גאידמק; Russian: Аркадий Александрович Гайдамак; born 8 April 1952 in Moscow, USSR) is a Russian-born French-Israeli businessman, philanthropist, and President of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia (KEROOR). He emigrated to Israel at the age of 20 and lived on a kibbutz, then moved to France and opened a translation bureau.
Arcadi Gaydamak, May 2008.
|Born||8 April 1952 (age 67)|
|Residence||Canada, Russia, Israel|
|Citizenship|| Soviet Union |
|Children||Alexander, Khadija and Sonia|
In the 1990s he was awarded the French Ordre national du Mérite and the Ordre du Mérite agricole for actions taken to rescue personnel in the War in Bosnia. In the AngolaGate scandal, he was convicted of failure to declare income. On November 24, 2015, he started serving a prison sentence at Fresnes prison in France for that tax issue.
In the early 21st century, Gaydamak returned to Israel, where he founded Social Justice, a movement that became a political party. He ran for mayor of Jerusalem but did not win. He bought Hapoel Jerusalem, a professional basketball club. He also bought two newspapers, one in France and one in Russia. He directed the latter to take a pro-government/Vladimir Putin editorial stance. In Israel he has been a generous philanthropist.
Arcadi Gaydamak was born in 1952 in Moscow, the capital of the USSR. At the age of 20, Gaydamak was one of the first Jews to emigrate to Israel from Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union and receive Israeli citizenship. He lived on Kibbutz Beit HaShita, and studied Hebrew at an ulpan. He said he originally intended to serve in the Israeli Army, but ended up moving to France, where he opened a translation bureau.
In 1982, Gaydamak Translations opened a branch in Canada. During that period he commenced international business, in import and export. After the collapse of the USSR, he built up ties in Russia and Kazakhstan and formed various business organizations across Europe.
Gaydamak won two citations from the French government: Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Mérite and the Ordre du Mérite agricole for helping to rescue two captured French pilots in the War in Bosnia in the 1990s, as well as two French intelligence officers captured by rebel factions in the Caucasus. Because these operations were secret, the citations referred to his contribution to agriculture. Former French interior minister Charles Pasqua confirmed this, saying that President Jacques Chirac had personally authorized the citations.
Gaydamak owns a home in Caesarea. He is married to Irene Tzirolnicova, with whom he has three children. He speaks Russian, French, and English. He also speaks Portuguese and Hebrew on a basic level.
In December 2008 Gaydamak was reported to have left Israel and returned to Russia, settling in Moscow. In February 2009 it was reported that he was seeking to regain his Russian citizenship, lost when he emigrated to Israel decades before.
Gaydamak was granted honorary Angolan citizenship. He holds French, Canadian, and Israeli passports.
In October 2009, Gaydamak and French magnate Pierre Falcone were convicted by a French court of organizing arms trafficking in Angola during the civil war in 1993–1998, to the value of 790 million USD, in violation of the Lusaka Protocol. He was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison. His conviction on the arms dealing charges was overturned by the Court of Appeal in Paris on 29 April 2011. The only conviction remaining was for his incomplete 1994 tax declaration.
In February 2007, seeing the social issues in Israel, Gaydamak founded a party devoted to socio-economic issues, which he named Social Justice. Although the organization was established as a social movement, he said it could become a political party if the circumstances warranted it. In late 2007, the party contemplated taking part in the 2008 municipal elections.
Gaydamak ran for mayor of Jerusalem in November 2008, but his party won no seats on the city council. During the campaign, Gaydamak courted the East Jerusalem Palestinian vote. Gaydamak approached the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Palestinian political figures and media, and came away with a near endorsement.
Sport clubs and media ownershipEdit
In July 2005, Gaydamak became sponsor of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team. The following month he donated $400,000 to the Israeli Arab Bnei Sakhnin football club. On the same day, Gaydamak announced the purchase of 55% of the ownership of Beitar Jerusalem, and two days later he announced the acquisition of full ownership. Gaydamak is the patron of several Jewish charities and president of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia (KEROOR), Russia's oldest Jewish umbrella group. In the summer of 2008, Gaydamak claimed his son Alexandre was owner of Portsmouth F.C., and it was confirmed by the Premier League.
In March 2006 he announced having bought the French newspaper France Soir via his company Moscow News. He had purchased the Russian Moskovskie Novosti newspaper in 2004, fired some senior journalists, and changed the paper's mandate to a firmly pro-government one, appointing a pro-Putin journalist as editor-in-chief.
In June 2007, Gaydamak negotiated a deal to buy the non-kosher supermarket chain Tiv Taam. It was reported that he was planning to make the stores comply with Jewish religious practice: close them on Shabbat and halt the sale of pork products. A few days later the deal fell through, resulting in a lawsuit.
In July 2009, Gaydamak announced his decision to give up the ownership of Beitar Jerusalem in favor of Itzik Kornfein and Guma Aguiar. Kornfein would handle buying and selling players, while Aguair would engage in financing.
Philanthropy and community serviceEdit
During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Gaydamak constructed a tent-village on the beach of Nitzanim, hosting thousands of families who fled the rocket-ridden North and had no place to go. Gaydamak's contributions totaled $15 million (about $500,000 a day). In November 2006, he funded a one-week-long vacation in Eilat for hundreds of Sderot residents who have suffered rocket attacks from Gaza.
- Yossi Melman (30 October 2009). "Gaydamak was once secret French agent, former minister says". Haaretz. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "Ordre National du Merite Décret du 13 mai 1996 portant promotion et nomination" [National Order of Merit Decree of 13 May 1996 on the promotion and appointment] (in French). Legifrance. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- Jeremy Post (9 December 2005). "Gaydamak: Billionaire mystery man". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 3 October 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- Lily Galili (21 December 2008). "Where will Arcadi Gaydamak make his new home?". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "Gaydamak asks for Russian citizenship ahead of arms-dealing verdict". Haaretz. 26 February 2009. Archived from the original on 18 November 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- Lily Galili (21 February 2007). "Gaydamak announces formation of 'Social Justice' movement". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "Billionaire Gaydamak says he'll run for mayor of Jerusalem". Haaretz. 30 April 2007. Archived from the original on 13 October 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- Lili Galili (26 October 2008). "East Jerusalem newspaper Al Quds backs Gaydamak for mayor". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "Premier League statement". Premier League. 23 September 2008. Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- Pascale Santi (14 March 2006). "Arcadi Gaydamak annonce avoir racheté "France Soir"" [Arcadi Gaydamak announces having bought back France Soir]. Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- Sharon Wrobel (11 June 2007). "Tiv Taam, kosher? Gaydamak says yes". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- Tani Goldstein (18 June 2007). "Gaydamak, Tiv Ta'am deal falls through". Ynetnews. Archived from the original on 3 October 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- Ophira Asayag (20 July 2009). ארקדי גאידמק לאיציק קורנפיין: בית"ר שלך מתנה ממני [Arcadi Gaydamak to Itzik Kornfein: Your Betar a gift from me] (in Hebrew). one.co.il. Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "Sderot residents vie for trip to Eilat". The Jerusalem Post. 16 November 2006. Archived from the original on 12 March 2014.