Greek Orthodox Church sells coveted Israeli real estate for rock bottom prices
AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has sold swathes of prestige property across Israel to secret offshore account-holders for rock-bottom prices, Haaretz newspaper reported on Friday.
The Church -- Israel’s second-largest landowner after the Israel Lands Authority -- was reported earlier in the year to be selling off chunks of its impressive property portfolio, mostly acquired during the 19th century.
The sales, which include at least one prominent historical site, sparked consternation in the Israeli government and protests within the Christian community.
Friday’s reported revelation that the sales were made through murky contracts and vastly below market value is the latest twist in the saga.
According to Haaretz, the Church sold 430 dunams (106 acres) in the ritzy seaside town of Caesarea for a bargain-basement $1.5 million, despite the land encompassing a Roman-era theater and wide parts of a national park which are among Israel’s most popular tourist attractions.
Sales also included a block of real estate in Jaffa including several businesses and almost an entire neighborhood in Jerusalem that includes 240 existing apartments, a shopping center and several open areas - all of which was sold to a mystery buyer for just $3.3 million.
According to Haaretz, all were made to offshore accounts in unnamed tax havens that deliberately disguise their owners.
Israel’s Channel Two reported in July that the Caesarea sale was made to a company called Saint Ventures Limited, registered “somewhere in the Caribbean.”
At the time, the station reported, government agencies were sideswiped by news of the sale.
An official from Israel’s Parks Authority, which oversees Israel’s nature reserves and national parks, said it would “act to ensure the protection of the ancient assets on the land.”
Most of the Patriarchate’s portfolio has been leased to various users on long-term contracts and are spread throughout the country.
Documents cited by Haaretz suggest they began offloading them in 2011.
The Church declined to comment.
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totally unacceptable! It shows that they do not bother at all of holly land ....