Tax investigators say a family- run strip club in south Tel Aviv cheated authorities out of as much as NIS 10 million, stashing the loot in the family house, the club, and a car, where drug dogs found more than NIS 400,000 in cash this week.
Tax Authority investigators said Monday that the managers of the Bursa strip club, father Michael Avenbah, 64, his son, Merdan Avenbah, 28, and daughter, Shay- Li Avenbah, ran a cash-only business that raked in millions, almost all of which was not reported to authorities.
Instead, every night after closing time Michael would make sure to destroy all evidence of the club’s income, tossing receipts, tickets, and register rolls into a dumpster outside the club.
Investigators said the club was run by the daughter, Shay-Li, who took over the business after the former owner, her ex-boyfriend, died a couple of years ago. The club is registered to what investigators said was a “straw-man.”
Shay-Li said she is not the owner of the club and that she takes her salary in cash from the registers each month; paying her father, who worked mainly as a bartender, and her brother, who worked the door. Merdan, investigators said, would sell entry tickets to the club (for NIS 80-100) and would make sure patrons handed over their tickets – usually in exchange for a free drink – so that there would be no record of them having been at the club.
The authority carried out a lengthy investigation of the club, sending in undercover agents repeatedly to record transactions.
Investigators found that “on most nights the club has striptease shows, sells soft drinks, alcohol, and food, holds private dances, and gives ‘private intimate services’ in small rooms on the second floor of the club.”
After their undercover probe, Tax Authority agents on Saturday night raided the suspects’ homes, cars, and club, seizing documents and stacks upon stacks of shekels, dollars, and euros.
That night dogs trained to sniff out cash hit on more than a million shekels in cash hidden at the club. They found another NIS 300,000 at the family home in Rishon Lezion and some NIS 430,000 inside Merdan’s sedan.
Investigators said that Merdan could not initially explain where the money came from, before finally recalling that some of it was money left over from the sale of a house in Turkmenistan in 1996.
The Tax Authority said that all of the employees at the Bursa – from the DJ to the stage engineer to the security – were paid only in cash and never received pay stubs. They added that the dancers they interviewed said that they made thousands of shekels a night and gave a cut to the club, none of which they or the club reported as income.
On Monday the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ordered the suspects kept in custody until May 28th, fined them NIS 150,000 each, and banned them from leaving the country for six months.
A man who answered the phone at the Bursa club on Monday afternoon said that it remains open for business as usual.