Former MK could be convicted of fraud [p. 4]

Jerusalem District Court is due Monday to hand down it ruling on whether to convict former Shas MK Ofer Hugi, who was charged with defrauding the government out of NIS 3.5 million while serving as director-general of two school systems established by Jerusalem Rabbi Shmuel Elbaz. Hugi allegedly kept NIS 2.5m. for himself and channeled the rest of the money to the two school systems, Or Hahayim and Nireh Or. According to the most serious charge, Hugi falsified records indicating how far each kindergarten and primary school student lived from his school and, therefore, whether he was eligible for government-funded transportation. Hugi also allegedly falsified documents pertaining to the tender he was obliged by the government to conduct before deciding which company would transport the children. He allegedly fabricated bids from two bus companies, and submitted a lower one from a company he owned. The schools were located in Beit She'an, Ramat Hasharon, Eilat, Ofakim, Beit Shemesh, Ariel, Kiryat Gat, Ramle and Betar Illit. Hugi allegedly pocketed NIS 2m. in this way. He was charged with forgery in aggravated circumstances, making use of a forged document and obtaining something by deceit in aggravated circumstances and is liable to up to five years on each count. According to another charge, in 1998 Hugi fooled the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry into believing he had established two technical schools, one for boys and one for girls. The ministry subsidizes technical schools by paying teachers' salaries and, in some cases, buying equipment and paying rent. The subsidies are calculated according to daily attendance by the students. According to the indictment, Hugi provided false information claiming that his nonprofit organization was taking steps to establish a technological college. This was a false declaration. Later on, he faked student attendance rolls. When he feared that ministry supervisors would come to inspect the school, he hired a group of teachers and brought children from other schools in Elbaz's school system to deceive the supervisors. The ministry transferred close to NIS 1m. to the nonprofit organization "Light of Life" even though no technical school existed.