Israeli tycoon whose business fell under suspicion of having ties with Iran found dead in Tel Aviv flat
Tani Goldstein Latest Update: 06.03.11
Israeli billionaire Sammy Ofer died Friday morning in his Akirov Tower apartment in Tel Aviv, after a prolong battle with grave illness. He was 89.
Ofer was the primary shareholder in the Ofer Brothers conglomerate, better known as Israel Corp. The latter holds the controlling interest in some of Israel's largest companies, including Israel Chemicals, Zim Shipping and the Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank, to name a few.
According to Forbes Magazine, Ofer was the richest man in Israel, and the 79th wealthiest man in the world. His fortune is estimated at $10 billion.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his grief over the Ofer's death on Friday afternoon, saying that the businessman was "a real Zionist who never forgot his commitment to his fellowman even when he became successful.
"He was one of the senior members of Israel's business community and contributed greatly to Israel's economy in his economic activity in Israel and worldwide. He contributed greatly to the Israeli public in the fields of health, arts and culture."
The veteran captain of industries was the unfortunate man of the hour over the past week: On Sunday, it was revealed that at least seven oil-tankers belonging to Tanker Pacific, owned by the Ofer Brothers, had docked in Iran between 2004 and 2007.
Later, it was revealed that an eighth vessel owned by Zodiac – another of Ofer's holdings, also had ties with Iran.
The revelation sparked a debate about Israel's somewhat lax laws regarding trade with the Islamic Republic.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on record as saying that "Israel's policy on Iran is very clear – any and all contact with it is forbidden."
A special Knesset Economics Committee hearing on the scandal, dubbed "Ofergate," was mysteriously stopped, sparking a flurry of rumors as to the true nature of the government's knowledge of Ofer Brothers' ties in the Gulf.
American blogger Richard Silverstein took things a step further, claiming that ships belonging to the group docked in Iranian ports dozens of times over the past few years, allowing Mossad agents to enter the Islamic Republic to carry out secret operations.
Ofer's silver lining in the Iranian scandal came from an unexpected source, as former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan publicly stated that the tycoon's shipping ventures never broke the law by docking in Iran.
A statement released by the Ofer family on noon Friday said that Sammy Ofer "Was one the last great shipping tycoons and a benefactor of a myriad of Israeli social ventures.
"He will be remembered for his love of life and wonderful humor, as well as his tenacious business sense and heading a successful international shipping conglomerate."
All Ofer Brothers businesses, added the statement, "Will continue to operate as they have always had, through his children and grandchildren, and in keeping of his tradition of hard work and dedication."
Ofer is survived by his wife Aviva and two sons, Eyal and Idan.
His funeral will be held at 4:00 pm on Sunday at the Trumpeldor Cemetery in Tel Aviv.
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