State Comptroller Joseph Shapira.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira on Thursday decided to give state protection to Rafi Rotem, a homeless former Tax Authority investigator who lifted the lid on what is believed to be one of the largest scandals in Israel in recent years.
The decision means that Rotem will receive compensation for 36 months’ pay and the benefits he is owed as a terminated employee.
Rotem first began working as an investigator for the Tax Authority in 1984. In 2003, he and 14 other top investigators from the authority complained of corruption within the organization’s ranks in a document they submitted. The so-called “document of the 15” called for a commission of inquiry into allegations of corruption inside the authority, including what it alleges are connections between then senior Tax Authority officials and known crime figures in Israel who were investigated by the authority.
Rotem, a 53-year-old native of Jaffa’s Bulgarian neighborhood, was on unpaid leave of absence since 2005, not long after the authority reassigned him to work at one of their branches in Ramle – what Rotem has said was a demotion meant to punish him for speaking out.
A number of press, TV, and radio news segments have covered Rotem’s case. In a column in Haaretz in 2013 headlined “The corruption fighter who became homeless,” former MK Aryeh Eldad said of Rotem, “He lost everything since he set out on his campaign for justice, including home, family, and property. He lives in the street. And it’s a horrible lesson for anyone considering exposing an act of corruption.”
The Tax Authority has repeatedly denied all of Rotem’s allegations as baseless.