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A former investment manager at a now-closed Bnei Brak branch of the United Mizrahi Bank is suspected of embezzling more than NIS 28 million, but instead of taking the money for himself, he withdrew funds from at least 10 very large accounts and put the money into the accounts of some 200 other people at the bank. This was done apparently in an effort to make up for stock market losses resulting from his advice.

Between 1993 and 1999, David Roth, 47, moved some NIS 28 million from the 10 major accounts, including six owned by Belgians, and four owned by Dr. Lekakh Efim, who filed criminal charges against Roth in May 2001.

Roth was arrested at the weekend after an exhaustive criminal investigation. His remand was extended yesterday for five days by Tel Aviv Magistrate Court Judge Zion Kapah, who commented on the defense's arguments by saying that "the defense is making his client out to be a Robin Hood, who meant to take from the rich to give to the poor."

United Mizrahi Bank's auditing department was involved in the investigation, which began after Efim sued the bank for NIS 78 million. The foreign residents whose bank accounts were allegedly embezzled were compensated and do not intend to file a complaint, according to the police, who do intend to interrogate other people to find out why the fraud was not discovered earlier, and whether other people were aware of the fraud or assisted Roth, who has been cooperating with police. His attorney says that Roth tried to commit suicide when the police began their inquiry.

Curiously, Ze'ev Roth, the arrested man's brother, was fired in 1997 from his job at Mizrahi Bank subsidiary, Etgar, which handled large institutional investment funds, for allegedly inflating monthly and quarterly reports to show that his management had been profitable for the institutions. Mizrahi says there is no connection between the two brothers' cases.

Ze'ev Roth claimed that "these were innocent mistakes," but the audits showed that end of month and end of quarter reports consistently showed inflated gains, when compared to the real results. But as in the case of his brother, Ze'ev Roth took no money for himself. The auditors did not accept Roth's arguments that the inflated figures were an innocent arithmetical error, and he was removed from his job.