An exclusive investigation by The Grayzone reveals new details on the critical role Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands played in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Julian Assange, and exposes the Sands security staff who helped coordinate the malicious campaign.
by Max Blumenthal
“I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.”
–Mike Pompeo, College Station, TX, April 15, 2019
Part 6 - Adelson’s Israeli-American bodyman turns spying middleman
When Nagel joined Las Vegas Sands as its global security director, he was placed in charge of securing an international financial and political empire that spanned from the US to Israel to Macau in the People’s Republic of China. Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson possessed a fortune valued at around $30 billion that placed him consistently in the top 10 of Forbes’ list of the wealthiest Americans.
Adelson’s political activities were guided by two factors: his desire to expand his gambling operations around the globe, and his fanatical Zionism. He is so committed to the self-proclaimed Jewish state, he once lamented having served in the US Army as a young man rather than in Israel’s military.
As a personal friend and financial benefactor of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Adelson plowed his money into a failed attempt to prevent President Barack Obama’s re-election and halt the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. In 2016, he became a top donor to Trump’s presidential campaign, helping to cultivate the most pro-Likud administration in US history.
To ensure his personal protection, Adelson assembled a collection of former Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers as bodyguards. At the head of his security detail was Zohar Lahav, an Israeli citizen who served as the vice president for executive protection at Las Vegas Sands.
Naturalized in the US, Lahav worked for a period in the 1990s as an administrator at the Israeli consulate in Miami. He was the subject of minor controversy in 1996 when the Miami New Times reported that the city of Miami had hired him as sergeant-in-arms, entrusting him with protecting the mayor along with an array of undefined roles, including personal aide.
Lahav found himself in the news again in 2011 when nine members of Adelson’s executive team sued his employer at Las Vegas Sands for refusing to pay them overtime. Three of the staffers amended the lawsuit to allege that they were denied promotions because they were African American.
“The [executive protection team], for all of its 14 years of existence, has been managed and controlled by an executive management team which has been comprised exclusively of former Israeli citizens who are white males,” their lawyer complained. (Besides Lahav, the legal complaint named Adi Barshishat as an Israeli who helped direct Adelson’s security team. On his LinkedIn profile, Barshishat lists extensive training surveillance by an unnamed “Israeli Government Agency.”)
In their complaint against Sands, the plaintiffs alleged that Lahav routinely told racially charged jokes. One of them accused Lahav of forcing team members to “transport firearms in violation of state law” and making them operate an unregistered x-ray machine that placed their health in danger. Two of the security guards subsequently sued Adelson for causing them to “suffer injuries, including sterilization,” by forcing them to x-ray every piece of the billionaire’s mail. Lahav was also accused of ordering security staff not to communicate with Brian Nagel under any circumstance.
Sands retaliated swiftly against the disgruntled security guards, reassigning them to humiliating mall cop-style roles. Next, Adelson’s attorney accused the opposing counsel of anti-Semitism, claiming he had harassed Lahav with “insulting questions about race, his religion,” and Adelson’s family. Finally, Nagel pushed to prevent the legal proceedings from being filmed, insisting before a district judge that televised coverage would “create material for viral use on the internet by extremist hate groups and terrorists” that could result in harm to Adelson’s personal safety.
It was an ironic claim by a security operative whose company appeared to have participated in a highly intrusive and possibly illegal spying operation against Assange and numerous lawyers, journalists, politicians, US citizens, and Ecuadorian diplomats.