(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Ofer Brothers Group is not alone. Quality-government watchdog, Ometz,
called both Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Comptroller Micha
Lindenstrauss on Sunday to initiate comprehensive investigations into all
Israeli-based companies doing business with Iran – and into the government
authorities under whose watch such alleged transactions took place.
letter to Weinstein, the group called for investigations, up to and including
the ministerial levels to find out who is responsible, and for what.
Iran: 'We don't do business with Zionist companies'
Editorial: More vigilance on Iran
call came days after the US State Department announced it would place sanctions
on the Ofer Brothers Group for its role in the September 2010 sale of a tanker
to an banned Iranian company.
According to a fact sheet released by the
State Department, the Ofer Brothers Group, together with Singaporebased Tanker
Pacific, “failed to exercise due diligence, and did not heed publicly available
and easily obtainable information that would have indicated that they were
dealing with IRISL [Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines].”
Brother’s Group denied having ever knowingly done business with an Iranian
On Thursday Ometz sent a letter to Weinstein asking him to look
into the the Ofer Brothers Group’s business dealings with Iran – but after
reports surfaced over the weekend of other Israel-based companies doing business
with Iran, Ometz asked him to expand the investigation by creating an
interdisciplinary task force to investigate both the financial and governmental
bodies involved in the allegedly illicit trade.
Among the reports that
were raised by Israeli-media outlets, was a Haaretz story reporting on 13
dockings by the Ofer Brothers Group-owned ships in Iranian ports over the last
decade. Yedioth Aharonot interviewed Shai Baaton, an accountant who heads a
group called the Jewish Boycott, who gave a list of more than 200 international
companies that operate in Israel, who also have trade relations with
“It is inconceivable that such widescale trade, by so many bodies –
with Israel’s worst enemy – could take place without the knowledge of the state
entities that deal in such things – be it the Prime Ministers Office, the
Finance Ministry or the Defense Ministry and all its intelligence services. We
are very concerned that different bodies, or those responsible for them,
preferred to look the other way and ignore the phenomena, out of considerations
that we prefer not to mention for the time being,” read the letter.
said that due to the centrality of the Ofer Brothers Group to Israel’s economy,
any injury to the company might lead to a market-wide ripple effect.
appears that the Ofer Brothers are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Natan
Lahav from Ometz. “If that is the case, and there are dozens of companies
trading with Iran, somebody knew about it and kept silent. Right now the
government ministries are passing the buck from one to another. Nobody is taking
responsibility. We expect the ministers who are quick to take the glory for
successes to take responsibility for mistakes.”
Lahav also raised
concerns over the way government reactions would be construed abroad.
the world sees that Israel is taking these claims seriously, and properly
investigating any wrongdoings, they will continue to support the boycott, which
Israel has been leading. But if things drag out and the state attempts to cover
things up, other countries will loose their desire to enforce the boycott,”
So far both the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry
have stated that they are not responsible for supervising the prohibition on
trade with enemy states, a policy that rests on a mandatory act from
Ometz’s letter to Lindenstrauss also criticized the coalition MKs
and cabinet ministers for failing to speak out over the allegations.
avoidance of the severe issue by influential coalition members and cabinet
members raises grievous concerns of financial/political ties – a cloud that only
grows gloomier over the years,” read the letter.
Chairman, Carmel Shama HaCohen, has called for a special committee hearing into
the matter to be held on Tuesday.
“A situation whereby a leading Israeli
company – or a company linked to it – is trading with Iran at a level that leads
the US State Department to sanction it, is a dangerous and a strategic black
hole in the Israeli effort to halt the Iranian nuclear project,” said Shama
Meanwhile, Iranian officials have denied any business ties with
Iran has no business dealings with “Zionist” companies, Chairman
of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines Mohammad Nahavandian said on
Friday, according to media reports.
“Based on the laws of the country,
any kind of trade or economic transaction with the Zionist regime and its
affiliated firms is against the law,” Nahavandian was quoted as
“The news regarding the activities of Zionist firms in regard to
Iran is a new game which has surfaced in reaction to other nations welcoming
establishing economic ties with Iran,” Nahavandian added. “Thus they [Western
powers] are naming some Zionist firms as engaged in doing business with Iran.”