Two Jewish businessmen – one American, the other British – are alleged to be involved in the sale of property belonging to the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, Hebrew-language newspaper Maarivrevealed on Friday.
According to Arabs48.com, the Israeli newspaper named the American as Michael Steinhardt and British businessman David Sofer. Both, it is claimed, have strong relations with the Orthodox Church Patriarch, Theophilos III of Jerusalem, and have given “generous assistance” to him to pay the debts he inherited from his predecessor.
Maariv pointed out that the two men run foreign companies based in third-party states to avoid paying taxes. They have bought real estate from the Orthodox Church, including 27 dunams (6.6 acres) in Giv’at Oranim in Jerusalem, where 240 apartments were built.
Israeli real estate expert Rafel Bokra said that the properties are classed as agriculture land and are rented to the state until 2019. This, he added, accounts for the relatively low price of the land, 433 dunams (107 acres) of which have been sold for just $35,000, whereas the market price would normally be $10,000 per dunam (quarter of an acre).