The New Yorker claims that former Israeli intelligence operators now behind the private investigations company Black Cube were deployed by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein over sex accusations.
In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations.
The New Yorker alleges that two Black Cube investigators met the actor Rose McGowan, who later publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to obtain information.
Another former client of the organisation was residential freehold speculator Vincent Tchenguiz.
The two then fell out, with Black Cube claiming in 2013 that it had not been paid for its services.
As a result, Black Cube contacted the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership and met with trustees Sebastian O’Kelly and Martin Boyd in Hanover Square, central London.
This was part of its campaign – including interviews with the Telegraph, the Guardian and The Lawyer – to put the squeeze on Mr Tchenguiz and get him to cough up their fees.
Avi Yanus, Black Cube’s chief financial officer, explained that the company had been employed just before Mr Tchenguiz’s wrongful arrest in March 2011 by the Serious Fraud Office.
The entrepreneurial former spooks were “core members of the Tchenguiz entourage”, according to Mr Yanus, lived at his Mayfair home and sort to find out who had briefed the SFO prior to the arrest of Vincent and his brother Robert Tchenguiz.
Black Cube claimed Vincent agreed to pay it additional fees of one per cent of any monies recovered from the various legal actions he was pursuing that were collectively dubbed “Project Athena”.
It was not confirmed whether LKP or Sebastian O’Kelly, who had at that point received a number of letters from law firms acting for Mr Tchenguiz, were ever part of “Project Athena”.
Mr Tchenguiz disputed the claim at the time, and issued his own proceedings in Tel Aviv alleging that Black Cube “engaged in a wholesale fraud”.
Although Black Cube volunteered salacious information regarding Mr Tchenguiz’s social life, which were off-topic to the issue of leasehold reform, its main task appeared to be to carry out “open source” research and gather information that could be used in the Tchenguizs’ legal tussles with the SFO, Kaupthing and Grant Thornton, the administrator of the Icelandic bank.
Yanus related how Black Cube set up a UK-incorporated company, with four staff taking up residence in the “office of Vincos in Park Lane”. It was “backed up by a small team of researchers in Israel”.
In the end, Black Cube dropped its legal case against Mr Tchenguiz and the issue was settled.
In the Weinstein case, the New Yorker makes the serious allegation that Black Cube secretly recorded Rose McGowan while posing as women’s rights advocates.
Whatever the truth of this and the other allegations, Mr Weinstein had better pay his bill, or journalists may be receiving a few calls from the operatives of Black Cube.