'Suspects stole donations for Holocaust survivors'

Charity received funds from Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, "sold food for profit," police suspect.

By
April 8, 2012 20:32
1 minute read.
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Suspect in court judge handcuffs arrest hearing 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

 
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Police arrested the head of Jerusalem-based humanitarian aid network Hazon Yeshaya, a charity that provides thousands of hot meals each day to people in need, and nine of the organization’s employees Sunday on suspicion of pocketing millions of dollars from donors abroad for poor people, including Holocaust victims.

According to suspicions, the suspects cheated donors out of the funds after making them believe the money would be used for purchasing food for the needy, when in fact the money was used to purchase food that was sold to buyers in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, police suspect.

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The deception of donors allegedly included the listing of made-up food distribution centers.

Hazon Yeshaya played a role in transferring compensation money from Germany to Holocaust survivors, and received money from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, police added.

The arrests came following an undercover investigation the police’s National Fraud Unit launched several months ago.

It was prompted by complaints from donors, police said.

Officers raided the organization’s offices in Jerusalem, seizing documents.

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In addition to theft, police suspect the charity of money laundering, aggravated fraudulent receipt of goods and forging corporate documents.

The charity was set up in the late 1990s, under the banner of food distribution for the poor and the provision of dental care.

“This charity is considered to be one of the largest in the country,” police said. “It receives tens of millions of dollars from donors abroad.”

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended the remand of the charity head by three days. Two employees had their remand extended by five days as well.

Hazon Yeshaya, which has received up to $2 million over the past two years from international donors, came under scrutiny in recent months from supporters around the world.

Last October, Friends of Hazon Yeshaya groups in the UK and Canada started to raise suspicions over the scope of the charity’s activities in Israel and, subsequently, supporting branches in Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and France suspended their activities.

In January, the Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations confirmed that it was reviewing complaints it had received about the charity.

Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.

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