Guma Aguiar. 'Spiritual connection to Israel'
Photo: Tal Shahar
Ever since he has gone missing, the relatives of Jewish millionaire Guma Aguiar won't stop quarreling over the property he left behind. Now it turns out that his assets include buildings in extremely sensitive places: The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the Muslim Quarter and Silwan neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
Aguiar, a businessman and the owner of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team, vanished on June 19 while boating. His center console Jupiter boat landed on Fort Lauderdale Beach, with its navigation lights on and engines still running, but Aguiar was nowhere to be found.
Three months after his mysterious disappearance, the local police in Florida have no clue as to his fate.
Fate of philanthropist Guma Aguiar, who splits his time between South Florida and has donated millions to Jewish causes, including Nefesh B'Nefesh, still unknown
Since then, Aguiar's wife Jamie and his mother Ellen have been embroiled in a legal dispute over the ownership of two apartments in Jerusalem. The mother claims to have received them from him as a gift, while the wife wants them to be listed under her name.
Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron (Photo: Yuval Neeman)
As the family members went through the documents, they discovered the full list of assets Aguiar had purchased over the year, valued at hundreds of millions of shekels.
Aguiar's representatives in Israel turned to the administrator general at the Ministry of Justice, Dr. David Hahn, and asked him to take care of 16 houses, the controlling interest of Hapoel Jerusalem and the rights for an agricultural farm in Samaria.
The documents they submitted reveal that, over the years, Aguiar had bought homes in Jerusalem's Yemin Moshe and Mamilla neighborhoods and in the Jewish and Muslim quarters, as well as on the Mount of Olives and near the Cave of the Patriarchs in a bid to transfer them to Jewish hands.
Some of these assets were acquired from Arab residents, sometimes in a disguised manner concealing the identity of the buyer or the existence of the deal.
'His dream was to help support Israel'
Now the missing millionaire's representatives are asking the administrator general to safeguard the assets until the disputes are solved, as the property is located in some of the most politically sensitive areas in Israel.
The representatives stressed that Aguiar had paid huge amounts for some of the assets, as his dream was to immigrate to Israel one day and help support the country.
Muslim Quarter, Old City of Jerusalem (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Meanwhile, a Florida court is holding discussions on the appointment of a trustee for Aguiar's property across the world, and the court has already appointed a local attorney expected to assume the role.
One of Aguiar's representatives argued that because he saw himself as an Israeli resident and had a "spiritual connection to the State," there is no justification for a Florida court to decide on the fate of Aguiar's assets, especially those located within Israel.
He expressed his fear that the American trustee will use the power and authorities of the US law in Israel, without consulting the family members.
"Due to the sensitive nature of the assets, it is unthinkable that a Florida resident, acting on the orders of an American court, will engage in actions with political consequences which may lead to religious and nationalistic riots and clashes," Aguiar's representative added.