Port of Ashdod.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A group of employees working at the Ashdod Port spent years bilking the Tax Authority as part of a conspiracy to make big money importing alcoholic beverages to Israel at below their actual tax value, police said Monday.
The case went public on Monday morning when around 200 investigators from the LAHAV 433 unit of the police and the Tax Authority raided storehouses at the Ashdod port and the houses of 15 suspects believed to be linked to the scam, arresting and detaining 17 suspects.
According to police, the suspects, who worked in importing and warehousing goods at the Ashdod Port, are believed to have spent years smuggling alcoholic beverages into the port while hiding the true value of the imports in order to pay less import tax. Police said the suspects used a shell company to import the alcoholic beverages to the bonded warehouses at the Ashdod port, where they would then falsify the true value of the imports.
Police said that the conspiracy scammed the state out of tens of millions of shekels in tax revenue. They also laundered millions of shekels through a number of international companies in order to throw off the tax authorities, police said.
Some of the suspects are believed by police to have gained de-facto control of companies importing alcoholic beverages to Israel, as well as a private customs agency and a bonded warehouse near the port, for the purposes of falsifying the imports. They also established a method for importing goods through bypassing the port and tax authorities altogether. Police said Monday that the operation was part of their efforts “to contain the criminal management of the seaports”, and that the investigation was carried out with the assistance of law enforcement bodies in a number of countries in Europe.
By mid-morning they had detained 17 suspects for questioning. At the center of the case is suspect Haim Cohen, whose remand was extended by five days on Monday by the Kfar Saba Magistrate’s Court. The court also extended by five days the remand of suspects Yossi Malul, Eyal Marchi, Tal Marchi, David Cohen, Yitzhak Abuhatzeira, Michael Abutbul, Moshe Levitt, and Sharon Davrit-Anaki. An additional suspect, Adi Marchi, was ordered to be kept in custody for 24 hours.