Is the Bulgarian “Casino Gold”, which is in the center of the scandal with Oren Hazan, managed by the Bulgarian mafia? The Bulgarian website Bivol revealed in its own investigation, published last week that the Casino was in a hotel allegedly linked to Bulgarian criminals.

According to an investigative report, broadcasted on Channel 2, Hazan ran the casino, but Hazan claimed that he only ran the hotel in which the casino is located. According to the report of the Bulgarian website, “Polyusi Hotel” is the hotel in which “Casino Gold” allegedly operates, assuming that Oren Hazan’s version is correct.

The Bulgarian investigation revealed that the owner of this hotel until 2014 was Valeri Krastev, who managed the assets of the Bulgarian mafia, known as VIS 2, in the region. The website, which earlier published in Bulgaria the WikiLeaks documents, mentions in its investigation one of these Wikileaks documents on Bulgaria’s organized crime – a diplomatic cable from former US Ambassador to Bulgaria, James Pardew, which includes VIS 2. According to the Bulgarian website’s editor Atanas Tchobanov, after the publication the team of Bivol received threatening messages whose source is not clear.

The cable describes VIS 2 as the biggest player in the illegal drugs business in Bulgaria, also involved in extortion, illegal trade of weapons and stolen cars, gambling, prostitution and smuggling. Furthermore, the publication mentioned a report of the Bulgarian police concerning Krastev’s organization, who, according to the investigation, is still the Director of the company that owns the hotel. A publication of Channel 2 from last week about Hazan mentions a man named Valeri as the owner of the hotel near “Casino Gold”. According to the investigation, however, the casino was managed separately from the hotel, which is in contrast to Hazan’s version.

Michael Mizrachi, who was involved in the establishment of “Casino Gold”, told The Marker last week that the casino was bought separately by a person named Valeri. Another investigation that we conducted with the editor of the Bulgarian investigative website revealed that in 2008 “Polyusi Hotel” sold the ground floor of a six-floor building in the hotel complex to Yehiel Hazan and other partners. It is a building which has a neon sign “Casino Gold” in English that reinforces the claim that the casino is managed separately.

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According to the report of the Bulgarian website, Oren Hazan and his uncle, Joseph Hazan, registered in Bulgaria the representation of a company owned by Oren Hazan (the name of the company is Achi Im Yozma) at the same address in Sofia where the company that manages “Casino Gold” is registered. The report further reveals that the owner of the company that ran the casino was a Bulgarian lawyer from Sofia and the company was registered at his office address, and that another company, called Sunny Brach Entertainment, which possessed for a year in 2013-2014 the license to manage the Casino, is also registered there. The license of this company was later revoked due to tax issues with the Bulgarian authorities.

According to the investigation’s findings, the person who runs the company which holds the casino license, and who is a minority shareholder in it, is the Israeli-Bulgarian businessman Jacob Djerassi, also known as a lobbyist who engages in government relations between Israel and Bulgaria. Djerassi was present at several meetings of Yehiel Hazan with Israeli and Bulgarian ministers and other senior officials in both governments. In some of the meetings the issue of Bulgarian workers in Israel has been brought up, a subject Yehiel Hazan has been involved with after his retirement from the Knesset. (Hazan was also involved with the foreign workers issues as a Member of the Kenneset).

Djerassi lists on his Facebook page several of those meetings. In September 2011, a meeting was held in Israel between Israeli and Bulgarian officials, and the Israeli side was represented by then-Ministers Orit Noked, Silvan Shalom and Dan Meridor and current Member of the Knesset and Minister Miri Regev. In another meeting, Hazan and Djerassi spoke to Eldad Nitsan, who is the head of an organization that unites manpower companies responsible for bringing foreign construction workers to Israel. Another meeting was held in Sofia with Hazan, Djerassi and the Bulgarian Minister of Social Affairs concerning the Bulgarian workers in Israel. Djerassi also took a part in a meeting in May 2012, during the official visit to Israel of the Bulgarian Police Commissioner and Chief of Main Directorate National Police, Angel Antonov and his Deputy, Nikolai Krushkov with the former Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (current Israeli President) and then-Ministers Silvan Shalom, and Regev.

Avraham Keren, the lawyer of Knesset Member Hazan said in a response: “This publication proves that the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Knesset Member Oren Hazan, indeed, as he always claimed in contrast to the unfounded media claims, didn’t manage the Casino and his role was project manager of the hotel in which the Casino is located. There was a separate casino manager who was not Oren Hazan. All of his actions were perfectly legal, and there is no business or other connection with any criminal party.

Yehiel Hazan and Jacob Djerassi have not yet responded to those allegations. The latter, however, confirmed that Yehiel Hazan was involved with the issue of bringing Bulgarian workers to Israel and with the organization of meetings between senior Israeli and Bulgarian government officials.

Shuki Sadeh, June 13, 2006, The Marker, a publication of Haaretz


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