Maccabi Tel Aviv's greatest ever player, Miki Berkowitz, has claimed that "everyone" knew about Moni Fanan's side business as a 'money man', but admitted he was surprised by the extent of the revelations which followed the suicide of the former Maccabi team manager last week.
Authorities suspect Fanan was running a multimillion dollar investment scheme for some of Israel's top sports figures, and that he was deep in debt. Huge losses, estimated at more than $20 million, are now believed to have driven Fanan to hang himself in his Ramat Aviv apartment.
Former top players and coaches are believed to have lost millions of dollars in shady investments and there are even suspicions that referees in charge of Maccabi games had invested with Fanan, although all 25 of the BSL's referees signed an affidavit denying the claim.
The Tax Authority is currently looking into the "private bank", with Fanan's son, Regev, the latest to be questioned on the matter on Wednesday.
Berkowitz was completely stunned by the suicide of the man he met many years ago during his illustrious career as a Maccabi player.
"I knew Moni from his days as a Maccabi fan," Berkowitz told The Jerusalem Post.
"He always sat in the first row of gate nine, just behind the team bench. He was our sixth player. After Shamluk Maharovski left his job as team manager in 1992, Moni was named as his replacement and the club became very dominant. He became a Maccabi icon and played a big role in the running of the team."
Berkowitz, who is widely recognized as Israel's greatest ever basketball player, believes Fanan's personal business was common knowledge.
"Everyone knew that Moni changed money and exchanged foreign currency for Maccabi's foreign players," he admitted. "We knew he was working in the money business.
"But beyond that, I personally never got involved and did not know any more. It now seems that he had a very big and complicated involvement in this business."
Besides the legal and moral implications, the Fanan scandal has severely tarnished Maccabi's image.
"I think this unpleasant episode with Moni Fanan hurts Maccabi Tel Aviv," Berkowitz said.
"It is a big cloud hanging over the club. But the club has existed for decades and has brought the state of Israel and Israeli sports a lot of respect. I hope this cloud quickly disappears and Maccabi enters a better period."
Berkowitz feels that the nonstop media coverage has played a crucial role in the ever-developing story, and hopes Maccabi can recover from this low.
"I think the media has created a snowball and no one can tell how it will end," he said. "It hurts the club and that is a fact which you simply can't escape. The people at the club need to make a move to lift it out of this crisis."
AP contributed to this report
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