Shmuel Flatto-Sharon

Shmuel Flatto-Sharon (1930–2018) was a “controversial” Polish-born French-Israeli businessman who fled France in 1972, seeking to avoid trial for embezzling USD$60 million. (He was ultimately tried in absentia and sentenced to five years in prison, which he never served.) Fearing extradition, in 1977 he ran for a seat in the Knesset, hoping to acquire parliamentary immunity. He won (partially because he bribed a lot of people to vote for him, for which he was convicted in 1984), and found himself in a situation where Menachem Begin’s coalition government could really do with his help. Flatto-Sharon offered to join the coalition if Begin passed a law forbidding Israel from extraditing its citizens abroad, and having already complained about this practice in 1962 anyway, Begin agreed. Israel passed a law barring the extradition of Israeli criminals in 1978.

Flatto-Sharon lost office in 1981, and as mentioned was convicted of vote-buying in 1984; he was sentenced to three months’ community service. He lived in a ritzy villa in Savyon (an extremely affluent town near Tel Aviv) and was well-known for the parties he and his then-wife Annette hosted there, which counted celebrities and wealthy businessmen as guests.

He rarely left Israel, as the French government had put out an international arrest warrant for him in 1975. In the early 1990s he did try to travel to Italy, after learning that the Interpol warrant for him had expired; he was arrested on arrival in Rome but was somehow able to escape back to Israel dressed as a woman (???). He was eventually able to “settle” with French authorities by paying a big fine. His criminal days weren’t over, however; in 1998 he was arrested with four other co-conspirators on suspicion of arson at the Tel Aviv Cultural Center, because the lot of them wanted to claim insurance on artifacts they had stored there. He was convicted, but served a mere three days in prison and two weeks of house arrest.

In his later years, he hosted a radio show called “Flatto Without Accountability” (Flatto Bli Heshbon). He died at the age of 88 as an established multi-millionaire.

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