Who was Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson: the casino mogul driving Trump’s Middle East policy

The Las Vegas billionaire gave Republicans $82m for the 2016 elections and his views, notably staunch support for Netanyahu’s Israel, are now the official US line

By Chris McGreal in Washington

In 2015, the billionaire casino owner and Republican party funder Sheldon Adelson spent days in a Las Vegas courtroom watching his reputation torn apart and wondering if his gambling empire was facing ruin.

An official from Nevada’s gaming control board sat at the back of the court listening to mounting evidence that Adelson bribed Chinese officials and worked with organised crime at his casinos in Macau – allegations that could have seen the magnate’s Las Vegas casinos stripped of their licenses.

The case, a civil suit by a former manager of the Macau gaming operations who said he was fired for curbing corrupt practices, was another blow in a bad run for Adelson.

He had thrown $150m into a futile effort to unseat the “socialist” and “anti-Israel” Barack Obama in the 2012 election. His credibility as a political player was not enhanced by his backing of Newt Gingrich for president.

But three years on from the court case, Adelson’s influence has never been greater.

The imprint of the 84-year-old’s political passions is seen in an array of Donald Trump’s more controversial decisions, including violating the Iran nuclear deal, moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and appointing the ultra-hawkish John Bolton as national security adviser.

“Adelson’s established himself as an influential figure in American politics with the amount of money that he has contributed,” said Logan Bayroff of the liberal pro-Israel group, J Street. “There’s no doubt that he has very strong, very far-right dangerous positions and that – at very least – those positions are really being heard and thought about at the highest levels of government.”

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As the 2015 court hearing unfolded, the billionaire swallowed his considerable pride and paid millions of dollars to settle the lawsuit, heading off the danger of the graft allegations being tested at a full trial.

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