Attorney: Yona probe and trial will last only a few weeks

Heftsiba owner's lawyer says had state not signed plea bargain, his client would have fought extradition from Italy.

Boaz Yona 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Boaz Yona 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The investigation and indictment of Heftsiba owner Boaz Yona, who fled the country after his company folded, leaving families who had paid for apartments with neither their homes nor their money, will take no more than a few weeks, Yona's lawyer, Ya'ir Golan, predicted on Tuesday. Golan also said in an interview with Israel Radio's "Hakol Diburim" program that had the state not signed a plea bargain with Yona, including the number of years he would spend in jail, Yona would have fought his extradition from Italy and it would have taken much longer for him to return to Israel. "Part of the agreement was that Yona would waive all the steps in the extradition procedure and return to Israel," said Golan. "In those circumstances, he could not be interrogated before the negotiations with the state were concluded." Golan added that the collapse of the companies had impoverished his client and that the state had decided not to fine Yona because it was aware of his situation. "Boaz Yona was left absolutely penniless," Golan continued. "All his money was invested in his companies. He took private loans and invested his own money. His sole aim was to prevent the collapse of the companies. But they did collapse and he was left with nothing, no money and no property." According to Golan, all the prosecutors who investigated Yona over the past year had reached the same conclusion. "I make the assumption that all the authorities made exhaustive investigations to determine whether it was true that he had no more money and there is no dispute about their findings. Everything he had was invested in the company. He didn't think of himself and did not take anything for himself." Golan defended the plea bargain, saying that the seven-year sentence was fair. "You must keep in mind that we are not talking here about an ordinary criminal. We are talking about a businessman who slipped and crashed. The punishment he received is significant both for him and his family and should not be underestimated." He also said that the plea bargain prevented what would have been "a long and most complicated trial which would have lasted many years." The state had also taken into account the fact that the trial could have lasted five to six years and that the deterrent factor would have been lost due to the time gap between the crime and the punishment. Asked about the comparison his client made between the way he was being treated and the way Adolf Eichmann had been treated, Golan said it was hard to judge Yona under the circumstances. "I agree that some of the things he said were out of order, but I can't judge a person who speaks out for the first time after 10 months in a foreign jail and suddenly leaves at 3 a.m. on an El Al plane. He erupted under severe stress." Golan said that during his interrogation, Yona would give the police the names of all of those who had been involved in any aspect of the affair. But he emphasized that his client did not intend to incriminate them and that this was not part of the plea bargain. The lightning plea bargain deal, struck on Monday between Yona and state prosecutors, was unanimously slammed by former senior police officers and chief criminal investigators on Tuesday, who said the arrangement was contemptuous of the plight of hundreds of people who had purchased homes and were left stranded following the company's collapse. "I don't understand why they closed the deal on Yona's plane trip back to Israel," said Cmdr. (ret.) Mickey Levy, former Jerusalem police chief. "Down on the ground, there are victims still suffering - this was coarse treatment of them. It was over the top and unethical. No doubt the plea-bargain will save the court and prosecutors much work, but this is not the way to deal with the issue. They [state prosecutors] should have waited, examined the material, and then acted," Levy said. "The people who suffered here invested most of their money, and were left with nothing. No one thought about them. They were too busy rushing forward towards a plea bargain," he added. Cmdr. (ret.) Yaakov Borovsky, former Northern District Police chief, said, "I am against plea bargains in public corruption cases. If there was a theft of funds, it should be proved." Former Israel Police head of investigations Cmdr. (ret.) Moshe Mizrahi described the bargain as an example of "the lack of discipline of the judicial system." "Couldn't they wait until Yona got off the plane?" he asked. Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.