A real life indecent proposal


A businessman tried to buy the wife of a devout Jewish scholar for a million dollars, the High Court heard yesterday.

Father-of-four Brian Maccaba made his "indecent proposal" after forming a "deep emotional attachment" to Nathalie Attar when she started teaching his children Hebrew, it is claimed.

He allegedly told her that their relationship had been "ordained by God" and offered her husband, Alain, the cash to release his wife and "live the life of a playboy" in France.

"Maccaba's pursuit of Nathalie culminated in the summer of 1999 when he actually offered Alain $1million to buy Nathalie - in other words to release her from their marriage," said counsel David Price.

"You may have seen the best-selling film, Indecent Proposal, where Robert Redford plays the wealthy bachelor who offers a poor newly-married couple, played by Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, $1million if he can spend one night with the wife.

"They accept the deal. They think it can insulate their marriage. But it could not and it led to its destruction.

"Of course, Nathalie and Alain did not and would never have accepted such an offer. And Brian Maccaba is no Robert Redford. But it is still an indecent proposal.

"It was far more indecent than the one made by Robert Redford - he was a bachelor who just wanted one night for his million.

"Brian Maccaba wanted to break up two families - his and Nathalie's - both with young children, just so that he could have the other woman that he was after."

Slander accusation

Mr Maccaba, 45, who was accompanied by his wife Ruth in court, is suing Rabbi Dayan Yaakov Lichtenstein for a "poisonous" campaign of slander.

The Irish-born businessman, who converted to Judaism 14 years ago, says he has been wrongly accused of 'perverted and illicit sexual relations' and of chasing Jewish brides.

It has been claimed that Mr Maccaba and Rabbi Lichtenstein were already involved in a long-running feud over their respective influence in the North-West London Jewish community.

The court has heard claims that when Mrs Attar went to the rabbi for advice, he seized on her unsubstantiated allegations to force Mr Maccaba to "bury the hatchet". When he refused to do so, the rabbi smeared him.

Mr Price, representing Rabbi Lichtenstein, told the jury yesterday that the case was about "power, money and vengeance".

The court heard that the businessman met Mrs Attar and her husband while living in the East End of London in 1993. They all later moved to Hendon.

At the time, the jury was told, Mr Maccaba, founder of the technology company Cognotec, and his wife were having marital problems.

Mrs Attar, it is said, was also unhappy in her marriage and began to confide in Mr Maccaba. Mr Price dismissed claims that Mrs Attar had exploited Mr Maccaba's affection for her by procuring loans for herself, her husband and their families - saying Mr Maccaba had willingly showered them with gifts.

Confessed love to pregnant woman

The court heard claims that Mr Maccaba professed his love to the heavily-pregnant young woman, who was "completely shocked". Even though he was rebuffed, he continued his harassment through 1998 and 1999, the court heard.

At a wedding in Jerusalem in August 1999, he allegedly forced himself on Mrs Attar and, in an obvious state of excitement, grabbed her breasts.

It is claimed that she and her family moved to Israel in 2001 to escape his attention.

The jury was read a poem written by Mr Maccaba to Mrs Attar which mentioned the $1million offer, entitled Knocking On Heaven's Door.

Clive Freedman QC, counsel for Mr Maccaba, did not deny that his client had written the poem, but described the reference to the million as a "poetic metaphor".

Mr Freedman said Mrs Attar had encouraged Mr Maccaba to read her favourite Psalms. She had a particular love for The Song of Songs, in which King Solomon describes the intense love between a person and God by likening it to that between a man and a woman.

She would also refer to the love story of King David and Bathsheba, his favourite wife. She gave Mr Maccaba a gold-plated bookmark in the shape of a harp inscribed: "To David, from Bathsheba."

With it was a poem saying: "You are a shelter for me, from distress you preserve me, with glad songs of rescue you envelop me."

Mr Freedman said: "She may have decided to deny her feelings after the event, but we say Mr Maccaba's feelings were strong and were equally reciprocated."

Despite the alleged harassment, he said, Mrs Attar continued to work at an infant school for Orthodox Jewish children set up by Mr Maccaba until September 2000.

The following December, she met Rabbi Lichtenstein to discuss her problems with Mr Maccaba. She claimed that not only had he "forced himself" on her but had propositioned her sister, Daniella, and had a sexual relationship with a divorcee known as Lorissa.

"The defendant made no attempt to establish the truth of these claims," said Mr Freedman.

The hearing continues.

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