Alon Yefet - Nir Keidar - 22022012
Alon Yefet Photo by Nir Keidar
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Officials from the Israel Football Association and the Referees’ Union are keeping close tabs on developments in the tax evasion case against senior Israeli referee Alon Yefet.

Tuesday’s report in Haaretz that the Tax Authority intends to indict Yefet over his failure to pay tax on overseas earnings was greeted with shock and consternation in both organizations.

The chairman of the Referees’ Union, Benzion Salman, said that he hoped Yefet, like the dozen other referees who were found to owe taxes, would be able to reach some agreement with the Tax Authority and avoid having an indictment filed.

“Obviously, ignorance of the law is no excuse,” Salman told Haaretz, “but according to what several referees have told me, they did not know that tax was not deducted at the source. I would like to believe that if the Tax Authority has reached an agreement with most of them, they recognize that they are guilty of nothing more than making an innocent error and not of systematically evading taxes.”

Salman described Yefet as “one of the top international referees,” stating, “Our decision − despite the report that he is facing an indictment − is to allow him to continue to officiate matches until a final decision is made. Alon knew that the Tax Authority is planning to indict him and he still took charge of one of the toughest games in Israeli soccer − Beitar Jerusalem against Maccabi Tel Aviv. He ran the game perfectly and there were no signs that he was distracted or under any kind of pressure.”

“We will continue to assign him to games as usual,” Salman added. “At the moment, there’s no question of suspending him. When we get all the details of the charges from the Tax Authority, we will reconsider our position.”

The Tax Authority, meanwhile, is to submit a summary of the arrangement it has reached with 13 referees to the Israel Football Association and the Israel Basketball Association.

If, as reported in Haaretz on Tuesday, it is proven that the 13 referees named in the report paid an out-of-court settlement to the Tax Authority, the respective associations are likely to suspend them, pending internal disciplinary action.

However, since the 13 are considered the top soccer and basketball referees in Israel, it is unlikely that they will be expelled or suspended for any length of time.