Exclusive: After posing as a spy and fake skydiving with dog, conman threatens South Africa

An email to the South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa from an American equities giant has sent shockwaves across the Jewish world this week


An email to the South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa from an American equities giant threatening to withdraw a $50 billion investment unless he changed his country’s policy on Israel sent shockwaves across the Jewish world this week.

But the shockwaves lasted only a minute. South African Jewish groups who saw the email quickly realized it had come from David Edouard Sassoon, a convicted fraudster and confidence trickster who left a trail of debts owed to former business associates in the US and UK — and who notoriously claimed to have served as decorated US Marine and an undercover American spy.

The email purported to come from Sassoon in his capacity as chairman of an equity firm, the J Sassoon Group, and accused South Africa of emboldening “radical Muslims” through its backing for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into Israel.

Sassoon’s wife, Sharon Levy, whom he is understood to have married in prison in the UK in 2018, is listed on the J Sassoon website as the company’s apparent head of compliance.

In the letter, Sassoon tells the South African president: “Make no mistake, violence will not be confined to Israel or Gaza, your public declaration [supporting an investigation into Israel by the ICC] will embolden radical Muslims in Africa, including South Africa, possibly even attempting attacks on Jewish communities in your country.

If South Africa proceeded with its intentions, Sassoon wrote,“J Sassoon Group will not only be forced to withdraw from its investment in Bluedrop Energy, but we will be forced to cancel our $50billion investment package into South Africa.”

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said that the email was “obviously a fraud”, saying that its contents “did not add up”.

Sassoon gave the South African government a deadline of May 21 to respond positively to his email, but on May 26 he was still telling a Cape Town business newsletter that he had approved $50 bn for “possible investment” in the country.

In an interview with the JC in 2016, Sassoon claimed he joined the US military in 1992 and served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

He produced photographs, including one purporting to be of him at the start of his service in the Marines and another supposedly showing him sky-diving with a rescue dog strapped to his chest on an international exercise. However, the US Marines said there were “no records” of him having served.

He also claimed he was injured in Somalia, and accompanied his mother, Josephine, to Buenos Aires while he was recuperating. He added that his mother was killed in the 1994 Amia Jewish community centre bombing. However, the name of Josephine Cattaui Sassoon was not on the list of the 85 victims of the atrocity.

Sassoon responded that the embassy had asked for her name not to appear on the official list because she was, like her son, an undercover agent.

In April, the J Sassoon Group took paid-for promotional content in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, announcing the opening of its business in Israel. Much of the material refers to the genuine history of the Sassoon family.

The J Sassoon Group describes itself as a “Washington DC-based multi strategy private equity firm” funded by “the Sassoon Family Continuation Trust” with offices in the US and Athens, Greece.

Since the JC first revealed Sassoon’s background in 2016, numerous people have come forward to reveal their encounters with him.

In September 2020 an Emirates-based business person said that the JC’s reports had saved him and his business partner from “a world of pain” as they made inquiries into Sassoon’s activities.

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