Basketball tainted by crime
An exhaustive investigation will allow Israeli athletics, basketball and Maccabi Tel Aviv to embark on a fresher, cleaner path.
The suicide of former Maccabi Tel Aviv manager Moni Fanan led to more revelations of problematic conduct within Israeli sports' flagship franchise. Fanan oversaw a "private" bank that gave its investors double-digit percentage gains annually, until it collapsed. The investors were not just players and club officials, but also players from rival teams and at least one veteran referee. The facts coming to light give cause for concern that Israeli basketball fell victim to years of fraud.
The Fanan affair appears to be the most embarrassing scandal in the history of Israeli sports since the selling of soccer games 40 years ago. The latter prompted a state commission of inquiry, which was headed by justice Moshe Etzioni. The panel's conclusions led to the suspension of players as well as an entire team. Since then, it appeared Israeli sports were being conducted cleanly and fairly. Now it appears that this was not the result of fair play, but rather hidden play.
Just a few hours after Fanan's suicide early last week, the first news reports detailing his shady business dealings began to appear. Haaretz reporters Yaniv Kubovich and David Marouani discovered that Fanan's business partner, Tzion Natan, had shredded documents and taken his computer hard drive. On Friday, Haaretz reporter Uri Blau revealed that Hapoel Jerusalem President Dani Klein complained about Fanan to the police and tax authorities two years ago. His complaint was not given serious attention.
On Friday, the Tax Authority announced it would investigate the matter. The police, meanwhile, remain silent. Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat has also kept quiet even though her ministry's primary raison d'etre is to intervene immediately, check thoroughly and remedy the problems that arise from such scandals.
The Israel Police must launch a comprehensive investigation, albeit a belated one, into the Fanan affair. Livnat must establish a blue-ribbon committee of inquiry to ascertain the extent to which Israeli basketball - its players, coaches and referees - was entangled in a web of financial fraud, with Fanan at its center. It must probe the conduct of the police and the Tax Authority in recent years, after these agencies were informed of the initial allegations about Maccabi Tel Aviv. An exhaustive investigation will allow Israeli athletics, basketball and Maccabi Tel Aviv to embark on a fresher, cleaner path.
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