Tax Authority’s Vanunu convicted of accepting bribes

Agency's former director is handed six years in prison and ordered to pay a NIS 750,000 fine or face an extra two years in prison.

David Vanunu 311 (photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)
David Vanunu 311
(photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)
The Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday sentenced David Vanunu, the former director of the Tax Authority’s national field intelligence unit, to six years in prison.
Vanunu was also ordered to pay a fine of NIS 750,000 or face an extra two years in prison.
Indictment filed against former tax investigator Vanunu
In a case that sent shockwaves through the Tax Authority, the former senior tax official was found guilty of accepting bribes totaling hundreds of thousands of shekels, conspiracy to commit a crime, tax evasion fraud and obstructing justice.
Attorney Lior Epstein, defending, argued for leniency in the sentencing and said that Vanunu was a “model citizen” who had made many contributions over the years to his job and the public at large.
Vanunu’s world fell apart after his arrest and detention, Epstein added.
However, Judge David Rozen said that Vanunu had abused his position as director of the Tax Authority’s National Investigation and Intelligence Unit in order to line his pockets with thousands of shekels.
“His actions were despicable,” said Judge Rozen, describing how Vanunu systematically created a criminal plan to enrich himself.
Vanunu misused his senior position and his access to confidential information to demand bribes from several people, including figures from the political and entertainment worlds, in return for making their tax problems disappear.
In March, the Tax and Economic Attorney’s Office filed a harsh indictment against Vanunu, which revealed how the tax official had devised a sophisticated criminal plot that included bribery, using confidential information about taxpayers to put pressure on them, as well as misusing his status to promote certain taxpayers’ personal interests.
According to the indictment, Vanunu took NIS 300,000 from Yochai Yaish, the agent for popular Mizrahi singer Kobi Peretz, as a bribe to settle Peretz’s messy tax affairs.
Vanunu’s connection with Yaish began in October 2008, when Yaish asked Yoel Mugami, legal counsel to Kadima director-general Moshe Schori, to help him with Peretz’s tax problems. Mugami immediately turned to Vanunu’s friend, the late Ron Hadar, for help. Hadar and Vanunu hatched a criminal plot to manipulate taxpayers.
The indictment describes how Yaish and his wife visited Hadar’s wife’s home in November 2009 and laid out a NIS 100,000 cash bribe on her bed as Vanunu waited in the living room. Yaish later turned state witness against Vanunu to avoid corruption charges in relation to the affair.
Vanunu also sought bribes from Kadima director-general Moshe Schori and his wife attorney Dalia Schori, who at the time was being investigated by the Tax Authority and faced criminal proceedings.
According to the indictment, Dalia Schori first turned to Mugami and told him about her tax problems. Hadar asked her for a cash bribe, but Mugami refused to accept it because she was the wife of his boss, Moshe Schori.
Instead, Hadar asked that Mugami find him work in Kadima as a political consultant.
Schori also met with Vanunu over the matter, but Mugami later testified that nothing came of it.
In sentencing Vanunu, Rozen said that in committing these offenses the former senior tax official had severely damaged public trust in the government.
“The defendant has harmed public confidence in processes that occur in government ministries and offices. His actions have undermined public confidence in leadership and in the purity of leaders’ actions,” said the judge.
“Bribery and corruption inflict widespread damage to the relationship between government and citizens and to the structure of society as a whole.”