Boaz Yona sentenced to 7 years in jail

Former Heftsiba CEO to pay NIS 8m compensation - double the sum in plea deal. Apartment purchasers still disappointed with punishment, say it's too lenient.

Boaz Yona in court 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Boaz Yona in court 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday partially rejected the plea bargain between the state and Boaz Yona, former head of the Heftsiba construction company, and ordered him to pay NIS 8 million in compensation to the victims of the company's collapse - twice as much as the sum agreed upon by the state and Yona's attorney. The attorney, Yair Golan, said after the brief hearing that the sentence was appropriate and indicated that he would not appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Golan had told the court at an earlier hearing that Yona had lost his entire fortune in the collapse of Heftsiba and had been left penniless. Asked how his client would pay the original NIS 4m., Golan had explained that Yona's friends and family would give him the money. Asked on Wednesday how Yona would pay the additional sum, the attorney replied, "That's a good question. We will make an effort to raise the money." The judge, Moshe Ravid, accepted the seven-year jail sentence recommended by both parties but said that the compensation agreed upon by the sides did not reflect the gravity of Yona's crimes. "Along with the harsh economic harm suffered by so many victims, the heart is pained by their severe emotional suffering, their despair and the great sorrow that they have had to endure from the day they learned about Heftsiba's collapse. These feelings accompany them day in and day out and one can assume they will leave a scar on their souls even after they receive their apartments, if, indeed they do receive them." Some 4,650 purchasers of unfinished Heftsiba apartments were affected by the company's collapse last year. According to the arrangement worked out between the special receiver, attorney Yitzhak Molcho and the banks, the banks agreed to pay 70 percent of the funding required to complete the apartments, while the customers had to make up the other 30%. In most cases, the amount of money that purchasers had to add to the original price was relatively small, said Molcho. But about 100 of the victims had to add another NIS 180,000 to NIS 200,000 each to the original price. Molcho said these families did not have the money. He estimated that the "hard" cases required a total of NIS 16m. to complete their homes. Some of these victims attended Wednesday's hearing and were disappointed by the court's sentence. One of them, Mimi Nehemia, who bought an apartment from Heftsiba in Ma'aleh Adumim, said she had to add NIS 200,000 to the original price, and that in the meantime, the apartment was still not ready. In addition to paying rent, she said she was still carrying one mortgage from her previous apartment, had taken out a second mortgage for the Heftsiba apartment and also had to pay rent. "In two years Yona will be at home, but my children will never see me because I'll have to work for the next 20-25 years just to pay off the loans," she told The Jerusalem Post. The punishment handed out to Yona did not match the severity of the crimes, she charged. "Molcho told the court the victims needed NIS 16m. to pay the additional cost of the hard cases. The court gave us NIS 8m. Even if my additional payment is cut in half, I'll still have to borrow NIS 100,000." The prosecution, which is under heavy criticism for agreeing to what many charge is an overly lenient settlement, issued a statement defending the plea bargain. "The arrangement includes a significant punishment of seven years in prison," the statement said. "Furthermore, we are talking about an immediate punishment, close to the time when the crimes were committed. This will deter other potential or actual criminals and save the court much precious judicial time and many resources involved in conducting such a complex and multi-faceted case over a period of many years."