A "Bird Eye-650" Long Endurance mini-UAV system developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is displayed at the Unmanned Vehicles Conference 2015 on November 9, 2015, in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz was questioned at Lahav 433 headquarters in Lod on Thursday as a suspect in an ongoing corruption probe into Israel’s largest state-owned aviation manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries, police said.
Katz is suspected of ethical violations and threats, according to police. The suspicions reportedly involve Katz – a member of the Likud Party and former chairman of the National Workers Union of IAI – allegedly threatening people to join the Likud and vote for him in party primaries.
The minister was questioned for about five hours. He denies any wrongdoing.
The IAI investigation became public in March, after 13 people were arrested on suspicion of corruption, offenses which included aggravated fraud, money laundering, theft by a public servant, fraud and breach of trust. Later in March, Katz’s son Yair, who is chairman of the engineering sector of the IAI workers committee, was arrested on suspicion of granting benefits to IAI employees in exchange for them joining the Likud Party.
Retired IDF Brig.-Gen. Amal Asad was also among those arrested on suspicions of receiving bribes from businessmen at technology company DruzeNet to further the company’s interests with IAI.
Asad denies any wrongdoing.
Attorney Illan Bombach, who represents Yair Katz, told The Jerusalem Post in March that his client denied the allegations against him and was cooperating fully with the police. Bombach argued that the investigation was motivated by “interests seeking to overthrow” Katz and that his client has no control over IAI employees’ futures. Furthermore, Bombach argued, police provided no evidence of any correlation between Likud membership and career advancement at the IAI.
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The arrests in what is termed Case 630, came after an “extensive,” nearly yearlong undercover investigation by the Lahav 433 anti-fraud unit in cooperation with the Tax Authority, Ministry of Defense Security Authority, or Malmab – an internal investigation branch of the Defense Ministry – accompanied by the State Attorney’s Office Economic Department.
The investigation comprised “a large number of sub-allegations raising suspicion of corruption offenses including aggravated fraud, money laundering, theft by a public servant, fraud and breach of trust,” the police’s Intelligence and Investigations Division said in a statement last week.
According to police, the investigation raised the suspicion of “systematic criminal behavior and deep corruption seemingly commonplace in Israel Aerospace Industries.”
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