Director General of Interior Ministry Held for Land Fraud

The Interior Ministry director general was detained yesterday on suspicions of corruption, for allegedly buying land through deceptive means.

Gabi Maimon by Alberto Denkberg
Alberto Denkberg

Gabi Maimon was questioned by the police financial crimes unit for allegedly acquiring property improperly in Yad Binyamin, a community in central Israel. The land had been slated for Gush Katif evacuees and local residents.

Several other individuals also allegedly bought plots improperly, in violation of the terms of the plots' tenders.

This morning police are expected to ask authorities to extend Maimon's remand. Maimon, who is suspected of acquiring at least one plot, could face charges of aggravated fraud and money laundering.

Police believe the plots were bought by individuals who met the tender conditions, but were then sold soon afterward to people who did not. There was coordination between the two groups of people, investigators say.

Investigators questioned about 10 suspects under caution, including regional council head Eli Eskozido.

Businessman Ofer Guetta was among the suspects detained yesterday. Guetta is suspected of having acquired three plots only weeks after they were purchased legally.

Guetta was not eligible to participate in the tender because he already owned property in the Nahal Soreq Regional Council. He said at his remand hearing yesterday that he had indeed bought plots from three people who had won tenders, but that his purchases had been transparent and fully reported to authorities.

In another real estate affair involving public officials, police recommended in August that several people be indicted over bribery and corruption allegations linked to the Holyland scandal. The most senior official linked to that affair is former prime minister Ehud Olmert. Police have recommended that he be charged with a string of offenses including accepting bribes to advance the interests of real estate developers.

Shas officials responded with shock to the news of Maimon's arrest. Maimon, a longtime party activist, is a close associate of Interior Minister and party chairman Eli Yishai.

"Everyone here is in complete shock," said sources in Yishai's bureau. "Gabi Maimon is a talented, charming man, a person viewed as cautious and straight shooting. This is a complete surprise for us, because it doesn't jibe with his image."

In the 2003 municipal elections, Maimon headed the Shas list in Be'er Sheva and served as city council head on behalf of the party. Three years later he left city politics to return to work for Yishai, then industry, trade and labor minister under Olmert. Since 2009 Maimon has been director general of the Interior Ministry under Yishai.