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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Police arrested a man from Baka al-Gharbiya on Friday for attempting to extort millions of shekels from McDonald's by threatening to unveil video footage which he claimed showed serious violations of food safety standards at the fast-food retailer.
The episode began last month when the suspect called McDonald's head office in Tel Aviv and claimed to be in possession of the damning tape. He asked for an urgent meeting with McDonald's representatives in order to show them the video and discuss his demand for payment in exchange for not going public with the film.
The corporation proceeded to file a complaint with the Tel Aviv Police.
The suspect again made contact with the corporation several days ago, repeating his request for a meeting and reiterating his demand for money. By this stage, police had begun monitoring and recording his phone calls to the corporation.
"He hid his identity and used different phones for each call," police said in a statement on Saturday. "The calls were recorded by detectives at the Glilot station, headed by Ch.-Supt. Daudi Nissim," the statement added.
Under police guidance, McDonald's managers set up a meeting with the caller, agreeing to meet at a Herzliya gas station on Friday. The caller, a 34-year-old man, was met by an undercover police officer who introduced himself as the corporation's deputy funds manager, and a second man who is a McDonald's employee.
"He arrived with a laptop and played the film. The footage appears to be a forgery. It shows worms in one of the branches," police said.
The suspect said he needed to consult with family members over the amount of money he was demanding, and said he would have a final answer within two days.
"We're talking about millions," he is alleged to have said during the meeting.
Police arrested the man at the end of the meeting. He was scheduled to appear before a Tel Aviv magistrate on Saturday night for a remand hearing. Police say further arrests are expected.
In a written statement, McDonald's thanked the police for their swift handling of the "blackmailer," and maintained that the chain would cooperate fully with police in this and any other such matter.