Shlomo Deri, Shas leader Arye Deri’s brother, resigned from his unpaid posts as co-chairman and board member of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund on Sunday. He called for “a halt to the pattern of politics interfering in the economic and strategic interest of KKL-JNF.”
In his lengthy resignation letter, Deri, an attorney, complained about the misuse of KKL-JNF-owned land and its transfer to subsidiaries and other bodies instead of helping the organization prosper and fulfill its Zionist goals.
“I am proud that over the years, I succeeded in leaving my mark on KKL-JNF and its operations, policies and strategy and helped bring about its success on many fronts,” he wrote.
Arye Deri was convicted of tax fraud for selling real estate in Givat Shaul to Shlomo Deri to perpetrate tax evasion. According to the indictment, the price of the sale, documents relating to reporting taxes on the sale and characterizing the real estate as empty when it was a residence were all done with fraudulent purposes.
In the second count of fraud, Arye Deri was paid for his investment activities by the Green Oshen company, dating to 2011, when he was out of politics. He later directed the fund to make those payments to Shlomo Deri to avoid paying taxes. From 2013-2015, Shlomo Deri issued NIS 630,000 in fraudulent invoices for consulting activities, which he had not really provided, to cover up the tax evasion.
A source in the prosecution said no decision had been made yet on indicting Shlomo Deri.
Blue and White MK Alon Tal, a former deputy chairman of KKL-JNF, said the organization’s entire system was broken.
“I enjoyed working with Shlomo Deri and found him to be a constructive presence on the board,” he said. “But the present system promotes politicians with tarnished backgrounds and without appropriate backgrounds in forestry and land restoration required to restore the organization’s reputation for integrity and Zionist consensus. Because of their politicized culture and inflated number of workers, they don’t make enough use of their considerable resources to fulfill their important Zionist mission.”
Zvika Klein and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.