Israeli businessman Sammy Ofer, whose company Ofer Brothers is embroiled in a scandal over illegal trade with Iran, was found dead at his Tel Aviv home on Friday, media reports said. He was 89.
Ofer, a shipping magnate who was one of the founders of the Ofer Brothers Group, died early on Friday of a "serious illness," Israeli public radio said, without giving further details.
Israel police could not immediately confirm details about how he died, although press reports suggested he was suffering from an advanced stage of cancer.
Ofer Brothers Group owns a major international shipping business which is under investigation after it was blacklisted by Washington last week for trade with Tehran.
According to the US State Department, Ofer Brothers and its alleged subsidiary, the Singapore-based Tanker Pacific, were involved in selling a tanker to an Iranian firm under sanctions last September.
But the firm has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying it had no ties to Tanker Pacific and that the State Department had made an "unfortunate mistake."
The Romanian-born mogul, whose family moved to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922 when he was a toddler, was listed by Forbes Magazine earlier this year as one of the top hundred richest people in the world.
Sammy Ofer and family were listed as having a fortune of $10.3 billion, and ranked as 79 in Forbes' World's Billionaires list.
The family owns a vast global shipping empire and is also involved in banking and property.
The elderly tycoon's death comes just 10 days after the Ofer Brothers Group was listed as one of seven global firms blacklisted by Washington for supplying petrol and other refined petroleum products to Iran in defiance of sanctions.
The Israeli press quickly uncovered records showing Ofer Brothers vessels had docked at Iranian ports at least 13 times over the past decade, prompting the parliamentary economic committee to meet earlier this week to debate the allegations.
But just 15 minutes into the meeting, the committee chairman abruptly halted the debate after receiving a note from Israel's security services, which warned that such a discussion could be "damaging," prompting a flurry of speculation that the firm may have been helping Israel spy on Iran.
Family friends quoted in the press confirmed that vessels belonging to the firm had docked at Iranian ports -- but said they had done so with explicit permission from the Israeli government.
Israel has for years demanded that international community take tough measures against Iran over its nuclear programme, which the Jewish state and many other countries suspect masks a weapons drive, despite Tehran's denials.
Ofer's death is likely to further deepen the mystery surrounding the firm's alleged ties to Iran -- raising questions over whether the suspected links were purely down to business interests, or whether it was ties to Israel's national security interests.
Sammy Ofer leaves behind a wife and two sons, both of whom are involved in the family business.
Eyal Ofer runs the group's property arm and is also a director of cruise line Royal Caribbean, while Idan Ofer is the chairman of Israel Corporation, which is involved in chemicals, energy, technology and shipping (through Zim Shipping), profile information published in Forbes said.