One of the Abuhatzeira family rabbis owes the government NIS 9.5 million in taxes, according to the Israel Tax Authority.
The authority claims that Rabbi Yekutiel Abuhatzeira, a descendent of a distinguished rabbinic dynasty and a son of the Baba Sali, did not pay taxes on religious services he provided between 2003 and 2009.
Abuhatzeira insists the money was not revenue, but rather donations and gifts he received in exchange for blessings he bestowed. The case will be decided in court.
In addition, the taxman found more than NIS 10 million in bank accounts owned by the rabbi and his children that could not be explained.
Abuhatzeira is a respected rabbi, and celebrities and businessmen frequently visit him at his home. The tax investigators broke with protocol and came to the rabbi's Ashdod home to question him, as opposed to calling him in to their offices. However, the rabbi did not provide all the information they requested, said tax figures.
Abuhatzeira's lawyer expressed surprise on Sunday when he heard the story had leaked to the media, and slammed the loose lips at the Tax Authority.
The Tax Authority "shows ignorance in everything connected to rabbis' courts," said Attorney Udi Barzily. The rabbi himself was apparently insulted by the treatment and is considering turning to higher-ups within the Tax Authority or to the state comptroller.
The leak may be part of efforts by the taxman to warn other rabbis, said Barzily.
"The Tax Authority is ignorant in its understanding of what a rabbi is and how rabbis operate. People who succeeded in life give the rabbi a donation so that the rabbi will give it to those in need. The Tax Authority wants the money to pass through nonprofits. In no country are rabbis sent tax bills, and they certainly aren't leaked to the press," he said.
The Tax Authority fiercely denied the allegations that the affair had been leaked, but confirmed that Abuhatzeira had been issued a bill, and noted that the matter is currently under negotiation.
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