Dozens Could Be Charged in Israeli Road-rail Firm Corruption Probe

Police describe a 'bribe factory' through which Netivei Yisrael employees advanced the interests of people within the company and outside it in exchange for various benefits.

An aerial shot of the Hashalom Railway Station and the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv.
Eyal Toueg

Police are recommending that more than 40 suspects and 11 companies be charged with offenses including bribery and blackmail after an investigation into allegations of corruption in the state-owned road and rail company.

The company, Netivei Israel, the National Transport Infrastructure Company, was formerly known as the National Roads Authority.  The police are recommending that more than 40 suspects and 11 companies be charged with bribery, fraud, blackmail and money laundering.

The suspects include Alex Vizhnitzer, Shai Barres, and Michael Kopilovsky, all former roads company executives; former Likud MK Michael Gorolovsky, lobbyist Yisrael Yehoshua, and senior executives in other government companies, including CEOs and division heads. Other suspects include contractors, consultants and other service providers. The material from the investigation has been given to the state prosecution to decide whether to file charges.

The arrests, which began in November, followed a series of investigative reports by TheMarker on the problematic mechanism of tenders and contracts in the company, which was also known as the Public Works Authority at one stage. The state comptroller has also issued harsh criticism of the company’s conduct.

The police statement issued on Wednesday called the affair a complex case of public corruption with many smaller intrigues, nine of which were described. Common to all of them, the statement said, is the organized, methodical way in which state funds were appropriated and hundreds of millions of shekels in ill-gotten profits were earned.

Police described it as a “bribe factory” through which Netivei Yisrael employees advanced the interests of people within the company and outside it in exchange for various benefits, exploiting their access to the company’s huge budgets and its control over thousands of public works projects all over the country.

During the past year, police and tax authority investigators questioned 380 people, dozens of them under caution as possible suspects. Police also seized tens of thousands of documents and confiscated 100 million shekels ($26.4 million) in assets.