Former MK Ba-Gad accused of embezzlement

Former Moledet party MK Yosef Ba-Gad has been accused of misspending millions of shekels belonging to two non-profit organizations linked to the Nehalim Yeshiva, which he administered for many years. The organizations involved are the B'nei Akiva Yeshiva of Nahal Yitzhak, Nehalim and the Society for Developing the Institutions of Nahal Yitzhak. The Registrar of Non-profit Organizations, Yaron Kedar, who released the report on Ba-Gad, said he was sending his findings to the police, the state prosecution, the Ministry of Education and the Council of Chartered Accountants for them to determine whether they should take further action. "The investigative report indicates that throughout the years, Rabbi Ba-Gad controlled the activities of the non-profit organizations with an iron fist and it appears that rather than making the well-being of the organizations his top priority, he was primarily concerned with his own well-being and in advancing his and his family's personal interests," wrote Kedar. "As a result, he did things that never should have been done with the organizations' properties." Kedar wrote that Ba-Gad received a salary of NIS 919,387 from April 1998 to October 2000 for his work in the yeshiva even though as a member of the committee that ran it, he was prohibited by law from doing so, and was aware that he was prohibited. He also received a salary from the Society for Developing the Institutions of Nahal Yitzhak between October 2000 and December 2003 even though its only activity during those years was to pay him. Moshav Nehalim allocated a plot of land to the yeshiva that was registered in trust in the name of Ba-Gad's daughter and son-in-law, Nava and Natan Guttman. The yeshiva committee approved construction of a "posh house" on the plot of land tailored to the Guttmans' needs at a cost of NIS 2.476 million. The house was rented to them for 10 years at $500 per month, and later reduced to NIS 250 per month after Ba-Gad resumed teaching at the yeshiva. Another house purchased by the yeshiva in 1963 has been occupied by Ba-Gad's sister-in-law free of charge since 1998. According to Kedar, the loss of rent since then has cost the yeshiva at least NIS 267,520. In 2003 the yeshiva decided to sell the house but Ba-Gad's sister-in-law, Elisheva Ba-Gad, has refused to move out. A lawyer and consultant who was with Ba-Gad on Sunday evening told The Jerusalem Post that "there is no question that the contribution to the public that Rabbi Ba-Gad has made over the years will become known to all by the end of this affair."