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Israel's Ofer family regains reputation

By Rashmi Kumar

Israel’s Ofer family has expressed relief after US authorities removed family business Ofer Holdings Group from a list of targeted companies.

A statement issued by the US state department on 14 September said it will withdraw sanctions against the family-owned industrial conglomerate, which had been accused of alleged trading with Iran.

“We are relieved the US state department has made this clarification. This is an important step forward,” the Ofer family said in a statement.

The scandal first erupted in May 2011 when the American state department accused a company owned by the billionaire Ofer brothers of selling a tanker to Iran, which was in breach of the Iran Sanctions Act. The charge was challenged by both Sammy Ofer and Yehuda Ofer who constantly denied the allegations.

A sanction was imposed on the entire group, whose operations span shipping, aviation, media and private equity, banning it from receiving US export licences, borrowing more than $10 million (€7.3 million) from US institutions and securing financing from America’s Export-Import Bank.

While the family holding group is no longer on the sanctions list, two other shipping companies, indirectly controlled by the Ofer family and operating outside of Israel, are now being investigated, the statement said.

The changes were made to avoid restricting activities of those parts of the multi billion-dollar conglomerate that had not been involved in the alleged tanker sale, according to authorities.

The clarifications come a week after the death of Yehuda, aged 81. His brother Sammy died in June when he was 89. According to Forbes, the brothers had a combined wealth of $10.3 billion, making them the richest men in Israel.

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