CHISINAU, Moldova (JTA) — Perched on a sofa somewhere in Israel, fugitive Moldovan-Jewish businessman-turned-politician Ilan Shor is seen in a video from last month speaking to his supporters back home. His message is, by his standards, relatively mild.
“Maia, you really are Hitler,” he says, addressing Moldova’s pro-European president, Maia Sandu. “Whether you like it or not, I will make sure my people live well.”
With backing from Russia, Ilan Shor has become a leading figure in Moscow’s campaign to destabilize Moldova, a tiny impoverished country wedged between Ukraine and Romania. Facing charges — and since last week, a conviction in absentia — that he stole $1 billion dollars from the Moldovan banking system in 2014, he has been sheltering in Israel.
From there, the opposition leader who is still a member of Moldova’s parliament has been denouncing his charges as politically motivated, organizing regular protests in his native country and spreading disinformation that critics say is designed to undermine Moldova’s efforts to align itself closer with the European Union and away from Russia. Last June, Moldova — which has repeatedly condemned the Russian war in Ukraine — was granted candidate status to the European Union, together with Ukraine. (A previous government collapsed in February under the weight of economic and political stress amplified by Russia’s invasion.)
Whether a fugitive from justice or a target of political retaliation, the presence of the pro-Russian oligarch has become frequently awkward for Israel, which has in recent years become more willing to extradite its citizens facing charges abroad. Shor is an Israeli citizen, and yet he has been sanctioned by the United States in October and the United Kingdom in December. The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment on any issues related to Shor’s activities, with officials saying that it was a legal issue.
“We do not want the territory of other countries to be used as a launching pad for hybrid attacks against us and for attempts to bring violence here,” said one senior official in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, when asked how they felt about Shor’s presence in Israel.
Last week, a court in Chisinau sentenced Shor to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the heist and ordered the confiscation of $290 million of his assets. Shor claims that the verdict was “revenge for the protest movement” and promised that it would be “annulled the day after the change in regime.”
Before the recent sentencing, Nicu Popescu, Moldova’s foreign minister, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency from his office in downtown Chisinau that Moldova had established information about “clear coordination between Shor and Russia in their joint attempts to destabilize Moldova.”
“The reality is that Shor is trying to bring violence onto the streets,” Popescu added. “He is operating from Israeli territory and that is problematic. This situation related to Shor is a factor that is problematic for our country, its stability, and for the stability of the region. The scale of the attempts to destabilize Moldova through violent means have risen recently and that is something that matters a lot.”
Ahead of a protest in downtown Chisinau last month, where 54 people were arrested, Moldova police said that they had detained seven people who had been promised up to $10,000 each to stir violence during the protests. Media here reported that the Shor Party, which Shor created in 2015, has been bribing people to attend protests and busing them in from towns across Moldova.
JTA requested an interview with a representative of Shor’s political party but received no response.
Ilan Shor was born in Israel to Moldovan Jewish parents who moved to Israel in the late 1970s, then moved back to Chisinau in 1990. He inherited from his father a successful chain of Moldovan duty-free stores and built a network of businesses across the country. He entered politics in 2015, in a move widely seen as an effort to try and protect himself from the legal fall-out of the banking scandal and fled to Israel in 2019.
Intelligence assessments in both Moldova and the United States have determined that Russia had been seeking to use such protests as a platform to topple Moldova’s government. Shor regularly addresses the protests on videos from his base in Israel.
Ukrainian and Western officials say Shor has links with the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, which has been channeling money into Moldova as part of its attempts to support pro-Russian voices, The Washington Post reported. Shor, who is married to a Russian pop star, is allegedly known to the FSB as “the Young One” (he is 36).
“Moldova is facing hybrid threats,” Popescu said. “We take our security very seriously and our institutions are doing everything they can to keep peace and calm, but it is totally unacceptable that people like Shor try to bring violence onto the streets of Moldova.”
Moldova has submitted an extradition request to Israeli authorities for Ilan Shor’s role in the banking scandal but has received no response, according to senior officials at the Moldovan foreign ministry. Some officials in Chisinau say that Israel may have been waiting for the completion of Shor’s legal appeal process, and that there may now be movement following his sentencing in absentia. Shor is also currently under investigation as a suspect in a range of other cases related to his activities during and since the fraud scandal.
“He is operating from Israeli territory and that is problematic,” Popescu said. “Our institutions are and will be taking the security of our citizens very seriously and knowing how careful Israel is about its own security, I am sure that Israel can have a lot of sympathy.”
“Shor is the most important political ally of Russia in Moldova,” said Valeriu Pasha, the director of the Moldovan thinktank Watchdog.MD. “The Shor Party works as a classic organized crime group, and it looks like he is ready to be part of some of the tough scenarios of Russian influence in Moldova.”
“He has received almost total control of Russian-affiliated media which is broadcasting in Moldova,” added Pasha. Shor owns a number of channels, while outlets like Russia’s Perviy Kanal, or Channel One, are rebroadcast in Moldova, where Romanian is the state language and Russian is spoken by Russians, Ukrainians and other ethnic minorities. Pasha said that Shor was playing a “critical role” in spreading pro-Russian narratives about the war in Ukraine and the Moldovan government.
Officials in Chisinau said that they were concerned that Shor could flee to Russia if his seven-and-half year sentence is upheld by Moldova’s Appellate Court. “We would want to see him extradited now,” said Veronica Dragalin, Moldova’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor, “because we do not want that to happen.”
Dragalin dismisses allegations by Shor and his allies that the case against him is politically motivated.
“This tactic of trying to claim that you are being politically persecuted is something that happens quite often in these situations in Moldova,” said Dragalin. Bringing Shor to justice in Moldova “would have a significant ripple-down effect in terms of deterring crime,” by underlining that there are consequences for the “rich and powerful” when they break the law, she said.
Some among Moldova’s approximately 15,000 Jews — who have spent the past year dealing with an influx of Jewish refugees from Ukraine — worry that increasing anger towards Shor, who has a number of close Jewish associates in the country, might blow back onto the community.
“Speaking about the consequences of everything that is going on,” said Aliona Grossu, the director of the Jewish Community of Moldova, “when it is linked to some political figures, of course there is a spill-over effect on the community.”
This, she worried, had caused an uptick in antisemitism by causing the proliferation of stereotypes that most Jews in Moldova were either “illegally wealthy” or were “connected” to Shor.
Shor is not particularly close to the Jewish community in Moldova. Grossu emphasized that despite her having worked for the community for 13 years, she had never met him, and that he had never had any involvement with the community — beyond paying his membership dues.
There are pockets of support for Shor among the local Jewish population, which is overwhelmingly Russian-speaking. On a recent day in Orhei, a sleepy town in central Moldova that Shor was once mayor of and remains its member in parliament, the leader of the tiny local Jewish community welcomed a set of Jewish visitors from Chisinau. Iziaslav Mundrean, standing outside the town’s Jewish museum, said that Shor was “a good man.”
Shor, he added, had paid for the construction of a new driveway for the collapsing Jewish cemetery and a new gate to be installed. He had also funded windows for an old synagogue that has since been transformed into the Jewish museum for the town.
Two other Jewish men from Chisinau standing nearby raised their eyebrows at Mundrean’s comments and launched into a debate about whether there was anything to respect about Shor.
Shor simply “had not been given the opportunity,” Mundrean continued, adding that the widespread dislike towards him across Moldova was because “people by-and-large do not like rich Jews.”
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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