Rafi Rotem 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
A 13-page indictment presented on Tuesday for the first time to homeless Tax
Authority whistle-blower Rafi Rotem contained accusations of repeated harassment
of public servants, including police from the north Tel Aviv precinct.
most of the alleged cases listed in the indictment, Rotem, a longtime
intelligence officer with the Tel Aviv branch of the Tax Authority’s
investigations department, sent faxes or called police on dozens of occasions,
typically referring to them as corrupt or incompetent. Rotem, according to the
allegations, sends faxes on a near-daily basis to all kinds of people – heads of
the Israel Police and the Public Security Ministry (in charge of Israel Police),
the State Comptroller’s Office, State Prosecutors and journalists who have since
stopped answering his calls.
As Rotem and his lawyer have not yet had a
chance to view the document, the court set the next hearing for
Rotem, who for the past several years has been living on
the street, first began working as an investigator for the Tax Authority in
1984. In 2003, he was one of 15 senior authority investigators who complained of
corruption within the organization’s ranks.
The so-called “document of
the 15” called for a commission of inquiry into allegations of corruption inside
the authority, including what it alleges are connections between then senior Tax
Authority officials and known crime figures in Israel who were subject to
investigations by the authority.
Among the 14 officials who joined Rotem
in the complaint in 2003 was Shuki Mashul, then head of the Tel Aviv branch of
the authority’s VAT department, whom the authority terminated in 2006 in what he
and Rotem say was payback for speaking out – a charge the Tax Authority denies.
Mashul joined Rotem at the courthouse on Tuesday morning, where he called the
proceedings a disgrace.
Mashul made mention of a Facebook post on Monday
by Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, in which she accused Ashdod Port union
head Alon Hassan of being a “corrupt thug.”
“So when an elected leader
goes on Facebook and publicly says someone is corrupt, it’s OK, but when a
private citizen sends a fax calling someone corrupt, it’s harassment, it’s an
indictment?” he wrote.
“The State of Israel wants Rafi Rotem dead, that’s
how they want this to end,” Rotem said about his case, adding, ”I’m not afraid
of them, they can lock me up for 100 years if they want to. This is the biggest
mafia case there has ever been in Israel.”
Rotem, a 51-year-old native of
Jaffa’s “Bulgarian neighborhood,” has been on an unpaid leave of absence since
2005, not long after he was reassigned to work as a clerk at a Tax Authority
branch in Ramle in 2004, which he said was punishment for speaking out. He
spends his nights on the street, sleeping in hotel lobbies, in his car or on a
friend’s couch when he’s lucky. He gets by scrounging together a few shekels a
day for a roll with some cold cuts, supplementing the sandwiches with free
samples from supermarkets in north Tel Aviv. The rest of his worldly belongings
– including dozens of boxes full of documents from his years as an intelligence
officer with the Tel Aviv branch of the Tax Authority’s investigations
department – are crammed inside a storage locker underneath the offices of the
Ma’ariv newspaper in Tel Aviv.
Rotem has been the subject of a number of
recent TV and radio news segments covering his case. In a column in Ha’aretz in
June, headlined “The corruption fighter who became homeless,” former MK Aryeh
Eldad said Rotem “lost everything since he set out on his campaign for justice,
including home, family and property. He lives on the street. And it’s a horrible
lesson for anyone considering exposing an act of corruption.”
Authority has repeatedly denied all of Rotem’s allegations, saying that he and
Mashul “have chosen to use the media to settle their personal accounts with
their managers” and that there has been no proof found to substantiate any of