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In the past seven years, there were 140 cases of embezzlement in the banking establishment, Supervisor of the Banks Yitzhak Tal said yesterday, but the sums involved were very small. These figures refer only to those cases that were reported to the supervisor, and do not include any cases that may have occurred in foreign branches of Israeli banks.

Tal added that in most cases, the sums involved were very low, except for the recent Trade Bank case, which totaled around NIS 250 million and brought about the demise of the bank with widespread publicity and outrage, not least by the bank's clients.

Last year, Tal was informed of embezzlements totaling NIS 5 million, half the sum in the cases reported to him in 2000. Tal pointed out that these were very small sums indeed, particularly in comparison to the provisions put aside by the banks of NIS 4 billion for doubtful debts.

He agreed that the demise of Trade Bank had had an impact on the banking system, and some individuals had taken to transferring their monies from smaller banks to the major players, though he refused to be drawn on whether the small banks had met with liquidity problems.