Court extends remand of Hazon Yeshaya suspect

Senior employee of charity suspected of aggravated fraud, money laundering, falsifying corporate documents and forgery.

Soup kitchen 521 (photo credit: Courtesy Be’er Sova)
Soup kitchen 521
(photo credit: Courtesy Be’er Sova)
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court ruled on Wednesday to extend the remand of a senior employee of the Hazon Yeshaya charity for a further seven days, following his arrest on suspicion of widespread misuse of funds.
Police arrested four members of the charity last week. A strict gag order prevents publication of their names.
Judge Michael Karshen said the suspect, who is currently in hospital and did not appear in court, was suspected of aggravated fraud, money laundering, falsifying corporate documents and forgery, but that police had dropped an additional suspicion of extortion.
In extending the suspect’s remand until April 18, Karshen said Hazon Yeshaya had received substantial donations totaling tens of millions of shekels for food distribution to the poor and for Holocaust survivors but police suspect a significant portion of those funds were not used for their stated purpose.
The suspect’s attorney told the court that his client had enemies who were trying to cause his downfall, and that he had no criminal record.
In a separate hearing, the court ruled to release another suspect to house arrest.
Karshen said that second suspect could be released to house arrest on condition that he forfeited his passport and did not attempt to leave Israel for 180 days. The suspect was also ordered to pay a bail bond of NIS 50,000.
Two other charity employees have also been remanded in custody until Thursday, when they will come before the court.
Police suspect that members of the charity falsely inflated the number of donors in order to receive more donations, and falsified the number of Holocaust victims receiving aid, the police source said.
On Sunday, police announced that they suspected the charity of cheating donors out of the funds after making them believe the money would be used for purchasing food for the needy, when in fact the money was used to purchase food that was sold to buyers in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community.
Hazon Yeshaya, which operates soup kitchens in Jerusalem, Ashkelon and Rishon Lezion, found itself at the center of a scandal last year, when the charity’s Canadian Friends requested more details about food provision and other services.
When the charity’s response was insufficient, the Canadian group sent a charity investigator to Israel, and then suspended its work with Hazon Yeshaya. Afterwards, other funders followed suit.
Yaakov Lappin and Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.