Police: Eliyahu Employed Illegal Palestinian Labor to Redo Home

Yuval Goren
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Yuval Goren

Police alleged yesterday that illegal Palestinian workers from the West Bank were hired to do construction projects on the Petah Tikva home of basketball star Lior Eliyahu.

Eliyahu, an Israel national team member who formerly played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, is now the starting power forward for Spain's Caja Laboral.

Eliyahu's father, who is suspected of employing one of the Palestinians as a contractor, was reported to have undergone police questioning yesterday. Law enforcement officials say that Eliyahu will be questioned only if it becomes apparent to investigators that he was aware his father employed illegal workers at their home.

In recent days, police have been in the midst of an investigation of a West Bank Palestinian who is suspected of illegally employing other Palestinians in the Petah Tikva area.

Investigators say the Palestinian would arrange overnight stays for the workers at the homes which they were hired to renovate.

As part of the investigation, a policewoman impersonated a homeowner and contacted the Palestinian contractor in hopes of hiring him to renovate her home.

The contractor told the policewoman that he was interested in the job, and that he could provide workers to help finish the project but that at the moment he was busy with revamping the home of Lior Eliyahu. The Palestinian then invited the policewoman to observe the work firsthand.

On Monday, the policewoman arrived at Eliyahu's home, where she noticed five illegal Palestinian laborers on the premises.

The officer also saw mattresses, a propane tank, pots and pans, and food all gathered in one of the rooms of the house, indicating that the laborers had stayed in the home for an extended period.

After the police identified the contractor on the site, officers raided the home and took him and the workers into custody. The contractor is charged with employing illegal workers as well as forgery of documents.

Eliyahu was selected by the NBA's Orlando Magic with the 44th pick of the 2006 NBA Draft. He was later traded to the Houston Rockets, which still holds his draft rights.

In December of last year, Eliyahu became the first Israeli to be named a Euroleague MVP of the month. Last season with Maccabi, Eliyahu averaged 14.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Earlier this year, he signed a 4-year contract worth 6 million euros with Caja Laboral, based in the Basque Country capital of Vitoria.