Abramovich’s lawyers are arguing that Israel has not imposed any sanctions against the businessmen following the conflict in Ukraine
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Roman Abramovich is litigating against the lender for blocking $2.2 million from being sent to a volunteer organization
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has demanded that the Israeli bank Mizrahi Tefahot unblock his account and allow him to make a NIS 8 million (approximately $2.2 million) donation to ZAKA, a Jerusalem-based non-governmental organization (NGO).
ZAKA, which operates a specially trained team of volunteer paramedics and rescue professionals, has been at the center of the effort to recover the bodies of hundreds of Israelis, including from Gaza, following Hamas’ attack on October 7, which resulted in the death of 1,200 Israelis.
Roman Abramovich, who was granted Israeli citizenship in 2018, and ZAKA have filed a lawsuit against the bank, accusing it of unlawfully denying Abramovich’s request to transfer the funds, which were intended to support the NGO’s activity amid the ongoing conflict.
The bank had earlier refused the transfer, citing sanctions imposed on the billionaire by the European Union and the British government. The bank claims that due to these sanctions, the bank account of Abramovich, whose net worth is estimated to be over $9 billion, according to Forbes, is blocked and that no operations of any kind can be performed.
The EU has sanctioned hundreds of Russian individuals and entities, including “businesspeople and oligarchs,” since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022, including the former owner of Chelsea FC. In December this year, an EU court upheld the sanctions against the tycoon, after Abramovich brought a case against the EU in May 2022, seeking to cancel his inclusion in the sanctions list.
Abramovich’s lawyers are arguing that the Israeli government has not imposed any sanctions against him in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, and neither has the US government, and therefore the blocking of the account is illegal. The lawsuit also states that Abramovich opened the bank account years ago, and that the money intended for donation to ZAKA was deposited in the account at the time.
ZAKA was established over thirty years ago following a wave of bus bombings and suicide attacks in Israel during an escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has since grown into an international humanitarian organization with over 2,800 volunteers based in over 15 countries. As a result of its UN recognition, ZAKA has since been requested to assist following natural disasters (e.g. Japan, Haiti, New Orleans, Thailand); plane crashes (e.g. USA, Mexico) and terror attacks (e.g. Mumbai, Mombasa, Istanbul).