Ashdod port 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The head of the Ashdod port workers union Alon Hassan and three other suspects are to remain in police custody until Friday a judge ruled on Monday, as police continue building their multi-million shekel corruption case against them.
Hassan is also banned from contacting any of the other suspects in the case and must stay away from the Ashdod port for the next 90 days.
During his hearing on Monday Hassan addressed Judge Michael Karshan, pleading that he be allowed to continue his work at the port and claiming that he is the victim of a witch hunt by people looking to remove him from his position at the port.
“They want me out of the game and there’s no other way to remove me than to kill me or to frame me,” Hassan said.
Hassan is one of 15 Ashdod Port workers and vendors arrested by police last week on allegations of corruption reaching into the millions of shekels.
The arrests follow a yearlong undercover investigation carried out by police and the tax authority and the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, checking suspicions of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, abuse of power, extortion, private gain of a public worker and violations of the anti-money laundering act.
The investigation raised suspicions that high-ranking officials at the port had created mechanisms for advancing private companies controlled by their associates and that they then shared their profits, either through bribes or in-kind benefits, with those officials.
They also pressured other companies to stay out of the mix in order to assure that their favored company did business with the port, even if the companies offered lower bids than the companies tied to the suspects.
The scam meant that the port lost out on revenues, which ultimately came at the expense of government funds.
In other Ashdod news, police announced on Monday that they had finished an investigation into suspicions of bribery, money laundering and breach of trust against a number of people, including deputy Ashdod mayor Amram Knafo and two former city councilman.
The three are accused of taking hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes in order to approve building project plans submitted by contractors.
Police said they will now pass the findings of the investigation on to state prosecutors to decide how to proceed.Niv Elis contributed to this report.