Former Bank of Israel Candidate Was Arrested and Charged for Shoplifting, Hong Kong Says

Jacob Frenkel says alleged shoplifting incident was based on a misunderstanding; Hong Kong denies apologizing over incident.

Hong Kong authorities said Wednesday that former Bank of Israel governor-designate Jacob Frenkel was both arrested and charged over shoplifting suspicions in 2006, and denied having apologized to him over the affair, as he later claimed.

Trying to dispel doubts cast on his appointment, Frenkel claimed last month that his detention at the Hong Kong International Airport after allegedly stealing from a duty-free shop proved to be a misunderstanding, for which the Hong Kong government later apologized - and thanked him for not suing for compensation.

However, according to the official response from Hong Kong’s Department of Justice to a query submitted by Haaretz three weeks ago, Frenkel was not merely detained at the airport, but was arrested and charged in a local magistrate’s court. The indictment was withdrawn only two months later.

Before forfeiting, Frenkel said he did not report the incident to the Turkel Committee on Senior Appointments because he didn’t feel the incident was innocent and would not be considered in his selection process. Immediately after the November 2006 incident was revealed by Haaretz, on July 12, Frenkel told the Turkel Committee that, “The Hong Kong local authorities came to the conclusion that there had been an unfortunate misunderstanding and expressed their regret and their appreciation for my not suing for compensation over the misunderstanding.”

A similar version of events was included in a letter that Frenkel sent to Sharon Ser, an attorney he had hired in Hong Kong, which was later submitted to the Turkel Committee and was published by Haaretz and Channel 2.

On July 15 the Hong Kong Justice Department was contacted by Haaretz and asked to confirm that its authorities had indeed acted as Frenkel had claimed, including the apology and the expression of thanks for not suing. The response was received only on Wednesday, a week after Frenkel withdrew his candidacy and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein’s inquest into the matter was discontinued.

The response, submitted by Department of Justice spokesperson Josephine Chan, contradicts Frenkel’s version of events. This may explain why Frenkel refused to a confidentiality waiver – a condition set by Hong Kong for sending the documentation to Israel - that Weinstein had asked him.

From the Hong Kong Justice Department’s response it also emerges that Frenkel gave a false version of events to Yedioth Ahronoth reporters the day after the incident, when it was reported that Frenkel had been involved in a minor altercation, following a misunderstanding, on the passport control line at Hong Kong Airport. At that point, the authorities had not yet received the “statement from the friend and additional material,” and the charge against him was still pending.

Emil Salman