When the criminals are the good guys

Yuval Yoaz

The dispute between Ratio and Globus reveals a worrying, upside down picture.

The Ratio-Globus affair has brought to light a worrying, upside-down picture. Legitimate business people displayed utter lack of judgment in approaching prominent underworld figures, with the idea that they should arbitrate a dispute that touches on public companies, while it was the criminals involved in the affair who displayed responsibility and seriousness by refusing to rule in the dispute between Yigal Landau and Shlomi Shukrun, and time and again referred them to arbitration by someone expert in securities law, a source familiar with the details of the affair told "Globes" today.

"The heads of the underworld behaved correctly," the source said, "while the straight guys behaved perversely." According to the source, the affair began when contractor Shlomi Shukrun sent a criminal called Yehezkel, from Naharia, to Landau's home in Savyon. Landau consulted Adv. Eli Zohar, senior police officers, and others, and all of them advised him to not to turn to the police, but to get himself a criminal of his own, preferably from the top league. Landau approached Meir Abergil, and in 2007 all the parties met at Kfar Truman.

The source says that at that meeting there was a balance of forces. Each side came with its battery of lawyers, and backed by a senior underworld figure. It was the criminals present who explained to the business people that they, Abergil and Yehezkel, could not serve as arbitrators in a dispute of that kind, since they had no knowledge of securities, and since there was a duty of transparency and to report to the Israel Securities Authority, public companies being involved. "We can resolve disputes over drugs, fruit and vegetables, and trading in women," they said, "but we can't play on this field."

It is further claimed that the criminals in effect threw the business people out, and told them to find a lawyer or capital markets expert who could resolve the dispute in a professional manner. However, the business people went back to Abergil and Yehezkel time after time, claiming that they had not managed to find an expert they could agree on, and pressed them to take on the arbitration. Initially, Shukrun requested that a rabbi should be the arbitrator, but wasa rebuffed by the criminals, who said an expert, not a rabbi, was required.

The source told "Globes" today that the next time, the underworld figures took it on themselves to find an arbitrator. They contacted criminal lawyers of their acquaintance, and through them enquired who had the expertise, experience, and fair-mindedness required to serve as arbitrator. Thus they found their way to Dr. Assaf Baram, partner of Adv. Gil Dachoach. Abergil and Yehezkel interviewed some of the candidates themselves. This was the case with Baram. He was invited to a meeting without knowing whom he was meeting, and was asked to take on the case.

Only after that meeting, which lasted a few minutes, did Baram realize who the two men he had met were. They presented themselves only as friends of the owners of Globus and Ratio. They even told Baram at the meeting that he was free to decide the dispute as he saw fit, as law and justice demanded. "Decide what's right according to the law," they said, "we don't care."

After Baram agreed to take on the case, it took the two sides' lawyers eight months to draft the arbitration agreement, which stipulated that the arbitration would be limited to sums up to NIS 6 million. However, in recent months Ratio's share price has risen very sharply, and the value of the shares that Shukrun claims has reached a value several times the arbitration limit. Because of this, the motion was filed in the court to void the arbitration.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 15, 2010

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2010

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