Police arrested 22 employees of Tel Aviv water supplier Mei Avivim on Tuesday on
suspicion of bribery, money laundering and fraud. The employees allegedly ran up
fictitious bills in order to line their pockets with taxpayer
Among the suspects were Yossi Leibovitz, manager of Mei Avivim’s
control and command center, and Ehud Yifrach, one of the contractors who worked
with the company. The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended both men’s
remands until Sunday.
The scam allegedly involved some of the senior
employees of Mei Avivim’s maintenance branch, who police said had spent years
working with some of the contractors to present falsified, inflated maintenance
bills for small-time jobs. The two sides would then split the money that the Tel
Aviv municipality sent to carry out the ginned-up repairs, according to
Police said that over the past four years, contractors had bribed
Mei Avivim officials to receive the maintenance tenders.
The deals are
believed to have totaled tens of millions of shekels, and the scam purportedly
gave the conspirators the means to launder large sums of money at
Officer Yisrael Hazan of the YAHBAL serious crimes unit said the
City of Tel Aviv had helped police with the investigation over the past six
months, and added that the suspects involved in the case had worked in a
systematic way to line their pockets repeatedly.
Officer Nir Shwartz, the
head of YAHBAL’S anti-money-laundering department, said police believed the scam
had been going on since Mei Avivim received the tender from the Tel Aviv
Municipality to be the city’s water provider, a little over four years ago.
However, he admitted, police and the municipality had only begun to suspect the
illicit activity around six months ago.
He added that at the moment,
police didn’t know whether any organized crime figures were involved in the
A recent report by the Council of Europe’s Moneyval body criticized
Israel for being the only member country that had not complied with certain
obligations in fighting money-laundering.
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