Four ultra-Orthodox nonprofits accused of fraud, face closure
The registrar of nonprofit associations has called for four ultra-Orthodox nonprofits suspected of fraudulently taking state money to be shut down by court order.
Registrar Yaron Kedar said that his investigation raised suspicions of "alleged organized activity to defraud the state of funds" by means of false reports and using the money for purposes other than those declared.
Kedar has submitted his findings to the attorney general, should he decide to demand the funds be returned, as well as to the police and tax authorities.
One of the suspected nonprofits is Amudei Or Jerusalem. This yeshiva operated at the beginning of the decade in the Sha'agat Aryeh compound, the hub of identification with former Shas leader Aryeh Deri, outside Ma'asiyahu prison.
The tax authorities inspected the yeshiva before it moved to the Sha'agat Aryeh compound at the beginning of 2000. Only eight of the 75 registered students attended classes, comprising a 90-percent absence rate. An additional inspection found 21 of 86 reported students - a 76-percent absence rate. The treasury's report estimated that the yeshiva had defrauded the state of NIS 32,000 a month, or NIS 400,000 a year.
At first the treasury froze the yeshiva's allocations. But later, when it moved to the compound outside the prison, the payments were renewed for 15 students, and the treasury even gave the yeshiva NIS 100,000 retroactively.
Another yeshiva suspected of swindling the government is Ya'aleh Veyavo, which purportedly dealt with the spiritual absorption of new immigrants and persuaded them to embrace Judaism in the 1990s.
"In 2001 the nonprofit received NIS 142,094 from the Education Ministry, when in fact it engaged in no activity at all, either Torah-related or otherwise," Kedar said.
The other groups are Midreshet Yisrael Letarbut and Ner Naftali.
Rabbi Pinhas Levy, head of the Amudei Or Jerusalem-Sha'agat Aryeh nonprofit association, served as a board member on all the associations, and his son was a board member on some of them. The nonprofits' founders and officials stated that their name had been used without their agreement and they suspect their signature had been forged.
"The remaining board members appear to be straw men," the registrar concluded.
Kedar told Haaretz that the associations "operated a system that took state funds earmarked for other purposes and transferred them to other nonprofits, which used the funds in ways they shouldn't have."
Among other things, the registrar wrote, "There were money transfers of hundreds of thousands of shekels between Ya'ale Veyavo and Midreshet Yisrael Letarbut.
"The findings are grave and raise suspicion of alleged organized activity to obtain funds from the state .... Such activity causes huge damages to lawful nonprofits and their reputation. All the organizations must denounce such acts and eject unlawful nonprofit associations from their midst."
Kedar said he hoped that filing lawsuits against the nonprofit's board members would serve as deterrence and make it clear that state funds are not no-man's land.
Rabbi Levy denied all the report findings. He said he had never been shown any documents or evidence to substantiate the arguments appearing in the report, and said he had difficulty finding paperwork pertaining to activity that took place eight years ago.
The registrar's entire investigation was based "on false tales of people who were fired from the associations, and it is all based on anonymous letters. Is this the way to go about an investigation? The entire system is flawed. It's all talk and groundless statements," Levy said.
He also said the nonprofit associations had ceased to function, their bank accounts had been closed and he no longer headed them.
Levy also rejected the argument that Ya'ale Veyavo engaged in no activity in 2001. He said the allocation to the yeshiva was resumed after he answered questions from the Religious Affairs Ministry about Amudei Or Jerusalem.
Levy said that Yisrael Gur, the association's former director general, had provided the registrar with the information about the nonprofits.
Gur said, "I gave the registrar nothing. I know who did and it wasn't me."
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