Israel’s Financial Newspaper Calcalist reports that Israel’s police are investigating suspicions of fraud and forgery in the purchase of shares in the Montefiore winery by David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel. The investigation, which is being conducted by the police division of the Jerusalem district, was opened following a complaint filed last December by the American Karraben Wine LLC, which until recently was owned by Friedman and his family.
The Karben Wines Company, was owned by David Friedman before he appointed ambassador. “Friedman says that he invested $730,000 on false pretenses. While that winery owners claim that: “Plaintiffs made a bad deal and are afraid to blame the ambassador.”
The company was sold when Friedman was appointed ambassador in March 2017, to Mar Wine Company owned by another American Jewish family. This was done in order to prevent a conflict of interest between Friedmann’s role and his private investments.
Karavan’s wines filed a lawsuit with the Tel Aviv District Court, claiming that Friedman invested $730,000 in the Israeli wine brand Montefiore on the basis of false presentations. “An investigation is being carried out, and testimonies have been taken from key figures, including a worker who was asked to forge documents,” Yuval Nahmani, the company’s lawyer, said during a court hearing.
Attached to the NIS 3.1 million claim were documents including a series of financial reports, bank transfers and correspondence that Carben claims were forged or fraudulently presented by Montefiore’s owner Arnon Geva in order to convince Friedman and later the representative of the Hershman family to buy shares or lend money to the brand.
Geva is a well known figure in the Israeli wine world, and has held senior positions in the Castel and Carmel wineries. Another defendant is Jerusalem lawyer Eitan Geva, Arnon’s father, who was formerly an active director in the winery. According to the plaintiff, Adv. Geva knew, or turned a blind eye, to his son’s actions.
In the defense statement filed by the Geva family, they denied the allegations. Attorney General Avi Segal said during the court hearing that “the plaintiffs made a bad deal with Mr. Friedman and it’s hard for them to sue him because they do not like them, so we’re here today. Judge Naftali Shilo ordered the parties to submit an update within four months regarding the results of the police investigation, before the prosecution can proceed.