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Following almost a week of anticipation in the wake of the Heftsiba construction company's collapse, Israel Police announced Wednesday evening that they would open a criminal investigation against the company's top officials. But after Heftsiba's offices were already stripped of key documents earlier Wednesday by attorneys representing major banks armed with rare private warrants, the police announcement may have come too late.
"In light of information that has come up over the course of the past week, and due to complaints received by the Israel Police about the Heftsiba Company, Intelligence and Investigations Division Chief Cmdr. Yochanan Danino decided to order the opening of a criminal investigation into the company's dealings," said police spokesman Ch. Supt. Yigal Habesor.
The National Fraud Squad will begin probing the company's management, exploring allegations made both by banks to which Heftsiba was in debt as well as by the would-be residents of the apartments.
On Thursday, Danino is expected to meet with prosecutors, the Israel Securities Authority and the Israel Tax Authority in order to coordinate the efforts of the different government agencies involved in the investigation.
Also on Wednesday, the Tel-Aviv District Court ordered the confiscation of Heftsiba CEO Boaz Yona's property, in accordance with a request made by one of the companies pressing charges against Heftsiba, Peninsula Finances Ltd. Hours later, Jerusalem District Court Judge David Cheshin ordered police to register Heftsiba CEO Boaz Yona's property and to prevent its being shipped abroad.
Yona has disappeared in the days since his family-owned company collapsed. Thousands of would-be residents have resorted to illegally squatting in Heftsiba-owned properties as a last resort.
One small ray of light appeared on Wednesday in the form of an agreement reached between a Heftsiba subcontractor and Bank Hapoalim which will allow 180 families to live legally in their apartments.
According to the agreement, Denya Sibus Ltd. will speed up the construction of 60 apartments in the Miduragei Har Homa project in Jerusalem and 120 apartments in the Nofei Hasela complex in Ma'aleh Adumim in order to allow families who paid in advance for the houses to move in.
Earlier Wednesday, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai called on the government to hold an urgent meeting regarding the company's collapse. Yishai said the government should show sensitivity to the plight of families who were hurt by Heftsiba's bankruptcy.
The minister also suggested that squatters who moved into Heftsiba houses when they learned of the company's collapse should have their houses connected to electricity.
The Justice Ministry said that it would provide free legal advice to families who had purchased apartments from Heftsiba. Ministry representatives said that they were even considering the possibility of sending employees "into the field" to meet with apartment owners who are afraid to leave their property.
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