Police arrest 83 suspects after Immigration Authority bribery scandal

Population and Immigration Authority employees suspected of bribing residents to cut waiting times.

By
August 19, 2018 20:42
3 minute read.
MIGRANT WORKERS outside the central bus station in Tel Aviv.

Migrant Workers 311. (photo credit: Illustrative photo/ Mya Guarnieri)

 
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Police arrested 83 suspects in connection with a bribery scandal which employees of the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority allegedly led, the Jerusalem District spokesman said Sunday, following a months-long covert investigation.

The public corruption scandal concerns employees and recipients of services at the east Jerusalem branch of the authority, who engaged in bribery to get ahead in line for faster service.

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“The Israel Police gives great attention to what is happening in east Jerusalem and to the various hardships that exist among the residents, including the lack of access to various government services, and as a result its activities aim to expose those offenses that increase the various hardships and directly harm the residents,” police said in a statement.

Police launched an investigation after receiving information about irregular activity regarding appointments and service at the branch, according to which staff were allegedly providing service in an illegal manner.

As part of the problem, police employed an undercover agent who operated among the office staff and exposed the system, whereby four employees of the Interior Ministry allegedly pocketed hundreds of thousands of shekels in cash in exchange for providing on-the-spot public service.

The four suspects, aged 19 to 21, are residents of east Jerusalem and their jobs include issuing identity cards, passports and travel documents. Police suspect they were in contact with six other suspects – who do not work for the ministry – aged 20 to 46 from east Jerusalem, and allegedly exploited the long waiting times for service to collect bribes for providing almost immediate service, in some cases without residents having to even go to the branch or bring the documents required of them.

The agent exposed the pattern of the suspects’ actions, in which the six “intermediaries” made contact with residents who need services from the branch and offer them immediate and individual service from one of the employees of the ministry, according to different tariffs depending on the type of service requested.

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In addition, police investigators uncovered another method by which appointments at the Population and Immigration Authority branch are sold through an application that was developed to make the process of making appointments at the branch easier.

Suspects allegedly made a large number of appointments via the application to increase waiting times even further, and after creating this fake burden on the branch, the suspects would offer appointments for hundreds of shekels. One of the suspects made 2,700 appointments over several months, traded them and pocketed tens of thousands of shekels.

The investigation resulted in the arrest of 83 suspects on charges of giving and receiving bribes, mediating bribes, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.

The Israel Police forces have raided the homes of 23 key suspects in the last few days, including four Population and Immigration Authority employees and six “middlemen.”

During the raid, police seized cash amounting to tens of thousands of shekels as well as six vehicles, including luxury cars, which are suspected of being bought with bribe money.

The Jerusalem police noted that over the past year, it has been operating three integrated service centers “established in east Jerusalem, with the intention of approaching additional government services that will join this process and provide their services in order to alleviate distress experienced by the residents. At this stage, the integrated service centers are still operating in the manner in which only police services are provided, and this is done extensively to make the police services in east Jerusalem more accessible and to strengthen ties with the local residents.”

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