On January 13th, 2010 the Tel Aviv Court handed down its first verdict in the case of illegal eavesdropping on businessman and philanthropist Michael Cherney. Illegal spying was commissioned by a Russian citizen, who at the time was an executive in Oleg Deripaska’s empire.
On January 13, the Tel Aviv Court confirmed the plea bargain between the DA’s office and Aviv Mor, a private investigator. Mor was found guilty of illegally gathering information of personal nature – in particular, tapping the phones of Cherney.
Judge Daniel Beary stressed that Cherney and his Secretary, Elena Skir, are “victims of a crime”. He added that Israel must fight illegal violations of privacy of and subsequent damage to its citizens.
The plea bargain handed down a 14-month sentence to Mor. Part of the sentence will be in the form of community service and the rest will be a suspended sentence. In addition, Mor will pay a penalty of 20,000 shekels. Mr. Cherney asked the court that the collected fine be used to help orphanages.
The DA’s office stated in court that the cases of other suspects in the illegal data collection case “are at an advanced stage and close to indictment.”
The charges against Mor cite their names: Avigdor Eskin, working in PR; Rafael Pridan, formerly a PI; and Maksim Gurevich, who has also worked in private investigations.
The same document in Hebrew says that “in May 2007 Eskin asked the defendant (Mor) to get him in touch with a foreign subject Alexei Drobashenko (further referred to as Client), who was interested in the defendant’s services at Eskin’s recommendation.
‘As per Client’s request, Eskin, the defendant, and Pridan went to meet him (Drobashenko) in Moscow. At the meeting the Client made it clear that the subjects he represents are in conflict with Michael Cherney and would like to collect information on him for advancing their own interests.
At that time Alexei Drobashenko was the head of the External Relations department at Basic Element, a financial and industrial group that belongs to Oleg Deripaska. In February 2008 Mr. Cherney filed a suit in a Tel Aviv court, claiming that it was this Russian oligarch, acting through Drobashenko, who had hired Eskin, Pridan, and Mor. In his claim Mr. Cherney accused a group of 10 plotters, including Oleg Deripaska, Alexei Drobashenko and the already sentenced Aviv Mor, of illegal wiretapping, hacking the computers of his charity fund, publishing slanderous articles, and harassing him with insulting graffities and leaflets.
In his interview to Haaretz Daily, Cherney noted that Deripaska had tremendous influence in the Russian government, in particular maintaining close relations with Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev. Mrs. Deripaska is the daughter of Valentin Yumashev, President Yeltsin’s chief of staff.
Deripaska and Cherney are former partners in an aluminum business. Currently, a multi-million dollar suit that Cherney brought against Deripaska is being decided in a London court.