TA water officials arrested in scam involving bribery, money laundering

The scam allegedly involves senior employees of Mei Avivim; police say workers falsified, inflated maintenance bills for small-time jobs.

Arrest [illustrative] 370 (photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Arrest [illustrative] 370
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Police arrested 22 employees of Tel Aviv water supplier Mei Avivim on Tuesday on suspicion of bribery, money laundering and fraud. The employees allegedly ran up fictitious bills in order to line their pockets with taxpayer money.
Among the suspects were Yossi Leibovitz, manager of Mei Avivim’s control and command center, and Ehud Yifrach, one of the contractors who worked with the company. The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended both men’s remands until Sunday.
The scam allegedly involved some of the senior employees of Mei Avivim’s maintenance branch, who police said had spent years working with some of the contractors to present falsified, inflated maintenance bills for small-time jobs. The two sides would then split the money that the Tel Aviv municipality sent to carry out the ginned-up repairs, according to police.
Police said that over the past four years, contractors had bribed Mei Avivim officials to receive the maintenance tenders.
The deals are believed to have totaled tens of millions of shekels, and the scam purportedly gave the conspirators the means to launder large sums of money at will.
Officer Yisrael Hazan of the YAHBAL serious crimes unit said the City of Tel Aviv had helped police with the investigation over the past six months, and added that the suspects involved in the case had worked in a systematic way to line their pockets repeatedly.
Officer Nir Shwartz, the head of YAHBAL’S anti-money-laundering department, said police believed the scam had been going on since Mei Avivim received the tender from the Tel Aviv Municipality to be the city’s water provider, a little over four years ago. However, he admitted, police and the municipality had only begun to suspect the illicit activity around six months ago.
He added that at the moment, police didn’t know whether any organized crime figures were involved in the scam.
A recent report by the Council of Europe’s Moneyval body criticized Israel for being the only member country that had not complied with certain obligations in fighting money-laundering.