Court extends remand of US-Israeli tax fraud suspect

A Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court extended the remand of Marvin Berkowitz, the police's chief suspect in an alleged $12 million tax fraud scheme, by nine days on Monday. Berkowitz is accused of acquiring the money by impersonating US federal prisoners in phony tax return requests sent to American financial authorities, and then laundering the funds via a series of property deals in Israel. The National Fraud Unit's undercover investigation into the alleged scheme surfaced on August 3, when Berkowitz was arrested together with several men suspected of aiding his money-laundering efforts. During Monday's court session, the police representative, Supt. Ohad Ganis, said Berkowitz had admitted to filling out "thousands" of false tax return requests and sending them to the US since arriving in Israel in 2003. "Regarding the checks you claim were cashed, do you have proof they were cashed in Israel?" asked Berkowitz's attorney, Baruch Ben-Yosef. "Yes, we have thousands of pieces of evidence," Ganis replied. Ganis added that the National Fraud Unit had made considerable progress in its investigation since last week's wave of arrests. "I feel from the testimony we heard today [from Ganis] that the police are approaching the end of the investigation," Ben-Yosef said during his summary before Judge Daniela Sharizli. "Therefore, I believe a small number of days in custody will suffice." Sharizli said at the end of the session that "after examining all of the evidence gathered so far, I believe a reasonable suspicion exists against this suspect." The judge rejected the police's request to keep Berkowitz in custody for another 15 days, ruling that he be kept behind bars for a further nine days.