Hall Owners Held Over Falsifying Gaza War Claims

The owners of a banquet hall near Kanot junction were detained recently on suspicion of demanding excessive compensation fees on false pretenses during the fighting in Gaza.

The two owners of Harmondia Bagan are suspected of forging employees' signatures and claiming compensation for alleged wages they paid their staff during Operation Cast Lead. The facility operated for only 11 days, while its owners claimed compensation for 20.

Hall owners Rafael Benisti, 57 and Meir Hadad, 45, of Yavne, were released under restrictions by Tel Aviv Magistrate Benny Sagi yesterday.

During the fighting in Gaza the Knesset's Finance Committee approved regulations for granting compensation for war damages and indirect damages. The regulations stipulated that employers would be compensated for wages they paid workers who were absent due to the fighting. The employers were required to provide a statement signed by each worker.

On March 19 the suspects claimed NIS 394,256 in compensation fees. Tax officials suspected that the claim was false. After questioning some of the employees listed on the claim sheet they found that the workers did not know of the claim and that their signatures had been forged. The suspects also reportedly attempted to obstruct the investigation, asking workers to say they had signed the request form if questioned by the tax authority people.

Benisti confessed that some of the signatures had been forged and that he had talked to the employees on the telephone about the compensation claim.