Patriarch allegedly sold J'lem land to win state's approval

By Danny Rubinstein

Haaretz

Nisan 22, 5765

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem sold properties inside the Jaffa Gate to a Jewish company to prove to Israel that he does not sympathize with Palestinians and the PLO, Nikos Papadimas, the former financial manager of the patriarchate, told Haaretz on Saturday. Papadimas, who signed the deal in the name of the Patriarch Irineos I, has fled Israel to an unknown destination. Irineos has accused him of embezzling patriarchy funds.

The Israeli government refused to approve Irineos' election as Jerusalem's patriarch for two years as ministers accused him of hating Israel and being close to Yasser Arafat.

In January 2004, the government gave its approval for his appointment, as required by tradition. Irineos negotiated the sale of the properties to a Jewish buyer and signed the deal soon afterward, in what could be seen as a payoff for making his installation as patriarch possible. The land's buyer is concealing his identity, apparently fearing international criticism of Israel for continuing to sponsor the acquisition of property in East Jerusalem.

The deal was signed by an offshore company registered in the Bahamas. Papadimas said the company deposited a $1.5 million advance into one of the patriarchy's accounts and that one of its representatives has started talks with the Djani family, which has been leasing the Imperial Hotel for 70 years, to evacuate it.