Martin Schlaff

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Martin Schlaff (born 1953) is an influential Austrian billionaire who has been active on the Israeli political scene. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, he is suspected by the Israeli police of bribing rightwing politicians including Ariel Sharon and Avigdor Lieberman.[1] [2]


Martin Schlaff is the son of Haim Schlaff, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor, a member of the Bobov Hasidic community. He was a partner in the firm of Robert Placzek which traded in wood and paper with European countries in the Soviet bloc. Both his sons, James and Martin Schlaff received an ultra-Orthodox education at yeshivas in Israel. Schlaff is fluent in Hebrew, English, German, Italian, Russian, Yiddish and French. He has a master's degree in economics from London. He also started his career in the Robert Placzek company.[3]

The Mysterious Billionaire

According to Gidi Weitz of Haaretz:, 'Schlaff avoids almost all contact with the media. He does not grant interviews or respond to reports about his life.' He adds: 'There are those in Austria who believe he is very close to the Israeli Mossad espionage agency and that he continues to come to Israel under a false identity.'

A former top official in the Israeli civil service who was interviewed for this story told me he was afraid of what would happen to him if it was discovered that he was a source...Someone else told me that spending time with Schlaff affected him so much that afterward he spent a long time standing in the shower in order to "purify myself."[3]

Political Connections

In Israel

The extent of his connections are highlighted by the fact that he flew in former Israeli cabinet minister Aryeh Deri to oversee the circumcision of his newborn son Haim Yudel. Also in attendance were Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Ariel Sharon’s personal physician, Boleslav Goldman, and the Schlaff family's New York business partner Shlomo Obstfeld who according to Haaretz jumped from a 19th-floor apartment in Manhattan to his death under mysterious circumstances only a few weeks later.

The funeral of Haim Schlaff, the Austrian billionaire's father, was attended among others by Avigdor Lieberman, Aryeh Deri, and former justice minister Haim Ramon. Martin Schlaff couldn't attend because of a pending bribery investigation, but after the funeral many of the attending dignitaries flew to Austria to mourn instead.[1] According to Weitz,

The person with perhaps the most religious sway over Schlaff is Aryeh Deri, to whom the billionaire donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to underwrite his legal defense, after Deri was convicted of corruption a decade ago. It was Deri who nailed up the mezuzahs in Schlaff's new penthouse in downtown Vienna, and he has also presided over the weddings of the Schlaff children.[3]

In Austria

According to Weitz reports Schlaff has long been identified with the Austrian Social Democratic Party.

Former Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer has been considered his friend for many years, and Schlaff organized the party leader's victory celebrations after the election in 2006. Former chancellors Viktor Klima and Franz Vranitzky were also among his associates.
He also has a finger in other parties' pies: Highly placed individuals from the People's Party and the Future party, formerly headed by the late Joerg Haider, have mustered in the past to help his business ventures. Senior Austrian politicians have, after their retirement, found positions in Schlaff's business empire.[4]

In Europe and the Near East

Gidi Weitz of Haaretz writes:

According to his friends, the doors of a variety of heads of state, mainly in Europe but also in the Arab world, open before Schlaff. He is known to be in contact, for example, with leading figures in the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes, as well as with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.[1]

Funding Israel's Rightwing

Schlaff's offices are located at No. 1 Trattnerhof in Vienna, an address which also houses Robert Placzek Holding AG, which deals in wood, pulp and paper. According to Weitz,

In August 2001, Robert Placzek Holding transferred $650,000 to a Cypriot company called Trasimeno Trading Ltd., which was controlled − Israeli police suspect − by Lieberman, who at the time was serving as national infrastructure minister in Ariel Sharon’s government. A few months ago police investigators arrived in Vienna to gather testimony concerning the affair.

A short distance from Schlaff's offices at No. 17 Wiedner Hauptstrasse, writes Weitz

one can find the offices of two companies, both of them with connections to Israel, in cases where Schlaff was also allegedly involved. One of them, Jurimex, was instrumental in arranging the guarantee of an Austrian bank for credit of $1 million for the account of Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman’s party, in February 2002. The other is Getex, an agricultural trading company with operations in Eastern Europe. Toward the end of 2002, about $3 million of that company’s money ended up in a bank account belonging to Gilad and Omri Sharon in Israel.
About two months ago, Haaretz reported that investigators from the Israel Police national fraud squad recommended indicting Schlaff on suspicion of having bribed Ariel Sharon by means of his sons. Nahum Levy − former deputy fraud squad commander and head of the investigative team in the affair, now on retirement leave from the police − has told Haaretz, “This is one of the gravest corruption affairs investigated by the fraud squad. It involved transfers of millions of dollars to the Sharon family. This was a particularly complex investigation because in it, an attempt was made to blur the source of the money via transfers from different countries of the world.” The police recommendation is now in the hands of the State Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine whether an indictment can be made.[3]

Investigation had long stalled, one Austrian politician told Wietz, 'because both the large Austrian parties, the Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party, have an interest in protecting him.' But in 2006 the Austrians agree to comply with the Israeli investigation. As a result, Schlaff has been reportedly 'tense and nervous'.

The man who used to fly in his well-equipped private jet among the capitals of the world is apparently very afraid of being tarnished with the label “wanted man.”[1]

The Stasi Connection

According to a Haaretz investigation, Schlaff made his first few hundred million 'mainly through connections with the East German government and its secret police force, the Stasi, before the fall of the communist regime in 1989.'

In documents from East German archives that have come into Haaretz’s possession, among them Stasi records from the early 1980s, Schlaff is described as a junior executive at the Robert Placzek company, a man in his early 30s and a lover of hunting, especially of wild boar. In June 1982, he had a number of meetings with representatives of the East German regime. They were lodged, claimed the Germans, in the Hilton in Vienna and all their expenses were covered by the host.
In March 1986, Schlaff, together with one of his partners, attended a meeting with three East German businessmen in a hotel in Zagreb...According to [Kristie] Macrakiss, the three businessmen were in fact senior officials in the Stasi, who at the end of the meeting gave Schlaff the code name “Landgraf” and the registration number 3886-86. [4]

Schlaff helped arranged the smuggling of secret components of American computer technology to East Germany by means of one of Schlaff’s companies in Singapore. The arrangement also involved Israeli elements.

After 1989, Schlaff became the focus of a campaign to track down funds suspected of having been stolen from the coffers of the East German authorities.

In 1998 a special Bundestag committee of inquiry published a report on the disappearance of public funds and the privatization of assets in former East Germany. Among other things, the committee confirmed that East Germany had transferred tens of millions of marks to Schlaff through accounts in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, in return for goods “under Western embargo.”[4]


  • Address: No 1. Trattnerhof, Vienna.


External Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gidi Weitz, The Schlaff saga, Haaretz, 7 September 2010
  2. Sharon family may have received perks from Austrian tycoon, court told, Haaretz, 26 April 2010, (accessed 13 September 2010)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Gidi Weitz, The Schlaff Saga / The 'mysterious billionaire' who shuns the media, Haaretz, 7 September 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gidi Weitz, The Schlaff Saga / Laundered funds & 'business' ties to the Stasi, Haaretz, 7 September 2010