Port of Ashdod.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former Ashdod Port union chief Alon Hassan and two of five others who were indicted in March 2016 on bribery, fraud and money- laundering charges, were acquitted by the Beersheba District Court.
The court explained on Thursday that portions of the state’s witnesses’ testimony were clearly lies; that parts of their accusations against Hassan were incoherent; and that the prosecution failed to prove that certain disputed corporate documents were fictitious.
Various other defendants were convicted or cut plea bargains along the way, and even their acquittals were left in doubt with the prosecution signaling a likely appeal.
According to the March 2016 indictment, some NIS 22 million in bribes were related to Hassan’s actions and those of former Ashdod Ports CEO and oversight authority Shuki Sagis, as well those of as David Hassan, Yaniv Baltar and Uri Baltar in conjunction with the company Dana Port Group.
Initially, there had been heavy speculation Alon Hassan would get a plea-bargain deal in exchange for testimony against now-indicted attorney Ronel Fisher and his associates. Fisher was indicted in a related massive corruption case, which Hassan helped break open by recording Fisher offering to use his special connections with law enforcement to solve Hassan’s legal problems in exchange for cash.
Fisher was later indicted and arraigned on the basis of other plea bargains as allies turned state witnesses.
Given the other plea bargains related to Fisher, the prosecution did not need a deal with Hassan, and at the time, he seemed left hung out to dry.
However, the acquittal may re-frame the narrative as the prosecution having missed a chance at a deal which then led them into a losing case.
The investigation had kicked off with findings of questionable accounting in an agreement between the Dana Port Group – a logistics company whose top officials included David Hassan – and the FC Ashdod soccer team.
From 2010 through 2013, Hassan and Sagis convinced other overseers and those using the ports that they had to employ a specific cleaning company, though it was not ideal from a business perspective. The company was controlled by Hassan, who used it to launder funds.
The other two scams involved Dana Port Group in which Hassan, Sagis and the others insisted that Dana provide inspection services and services relating to drilling for Shemen Oil, pushing out prior service providers and without a competitive bidding process. The defendants used Dana to funnel millions more shekels to themselves.
Yaniv Baltar had cut a deal with the state under which he would serve 18 months in prison, forfeit NIS 2.9 million of seized assets and pay a NIS 600,000 fine; Uri Baltar cut a deal to serve six months community service and pay a NIS 500,000 fine; and Dan Port Group’s deal calls for NIS 600,000 being seized and a NIS 100,000 fine.
The scandal and its connection to Fisher also eventually led to the indictment of former Tel Aviv chief district attorney Ruth David – also in March 2016 – the highest ranking prosecutor ever indicted in Israel.
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