Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lowy's Israeli Charities?

Australia's now richest man (Lowy tops rich list as crisis knocks twiggy off perch, The Australian, 3/10/08), shopping centre magnate and Haganah veteran* Frank Lowy has been receiving some media attention of late for allegations of tax avoidance - from ABC television's 4 Corners program (Tax me if you can, 6/10/08) and from the Sydney Morning Herald (The quiet benefactor: Lowy's dedication to Israel, Jason Koutsoukis, & The lowdown on Liechtenstein, Elisabeth Sexton, 29/9/08).

[*See my 2/8/08 post Charities of Middle Eastern Appearance Only]

Some extracts from the latter two articles:-

"When a US Senate Committee alleged Frank Lowy concealed $US68 million from the Australian Tax Office in Liechtenstein, Lowy said he had given the money to Israeli charities and insisted he had met all his tax obligations." (Koutsoukis)

"This week Australia's politicians get their chance to air the issues raised in Washington... The Australian [Joint] committee [of Public Accounts and Audit] members will be acutely aware of Lowy's good reputation and high standing in the Australian business, sporting and foreign affairs communities, courtesy of his chairmanship of the shopping centre empire Westfield Group, of the Football Federation of Australia and of the Lowy Institute for International Policy. Lowy... is also a long-standing and generous donor to both sides of politics. Last yeat Westfield gave $335,000 to the Labor Party and $246,000 to the Coalition." (Sexton)

"It may not bear his name, but the Israeli version of Sydney's Lowy Institute for International Policy - the Institute for National Security Studies, attached to the University of Tel Aviv - is equally his creation... Its vice-chairman is Dan Meridor, a prominent lawyer and former politician in the centre-right Likud party. Meridor served as justice minister and finance minister in the 1990s, and is contemplating a return to politics with the Likud." (Koutsoukis)

"One man who has known Lowy for almost 25 years is Avinoam Brog, president of Israel's leading market research and polling firm Market Watch, and brother of the former prime minister and current Labour Party chairman, Ehud Barak. Brog got to know Lowy in the 1980s, when he was executive director of the Sydney branch of Keren Hayesod*, the central fund-raising organisation for Israel throughout the world... Brog... said [Lowy] had been a 'very, very generous donor to Keren Hayesod' since the 1980s. 'And I would expect that that financial support has only increased in the years since'. According to a handful of Australian and Israeli businessman who are active in Israel and keep an eye on Lowy's movements in that country, the money that he puts into the Institute for National Security and Keren Hayesod are the two main concerns he devotes time to outside his business interests." (Koutsoukis)

[*"Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal (UIA), through a partnership between Israel and diaspora communities, mobilises support for Israel and the rescue of Jews in distress, by encouraging and assisting in aliyah and absorption." (UIA Victoria website) UIA's 2008 Appeal featured the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, along with two Israeli government ministers. Entertainment was provided by the Israel Defence Force Entertainment Troupe.]

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