Israel Supreme Court Rules to Convict Former Port Union Strongman

Former Ashdod port union chief Alon Hassan was convicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust on Tuesday

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Former Ashdod port union chief Alon Hassan.
Former Ashdod port union chief Alon Hassan.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The Supreme Court accepted the state’s appeal and ruled to convict former Ashdod port union chief Alon Hassan on charges of fraud and breach of trust, in a 95-page ruling on Tuesday.

The ruling examines under what limits a public sector worker has committed a criminal breach of trust.

The original indictment dates to 2016, and includes four charges along with details of illicit bribes that Hassan and his associates took during the course of operations at the Ashdod Port between 2010 and 2013.

Hassan allegedly took advantage of his senior position at the port to win lucrative contracts for a company with which he was associated.

A ship moored at the port in Ashdod, southern Israel.Credit: Ilan Assayag

The indictment states he committed fraud, extortion by threats, criminal conspiracy, aggravated fraud and breach of trust by a public servant.

The incidents that led to the indictment were exposed in 2011 by Haaretz reporter Sharon Shpurer.

>> Read "On the Watefront," the original Haaretz investigation into Alon Hassan

In March 2018 a Be’er Sheva District Court judge cleared Hassan of all charges, while directing barbed criticism at the police and the prosecution.The state prosecution then appealed against Hassan’s exoneration on three of the four charges.

In the Supreme Court ruling, justice Neal Hendel noted that despite Hassan’s exoneration in some of the cases, due to the high bar set for what’s considered a criminal offense, “Several times the defendant treated the port as if it were his own, and wasn’t afraid to get involved in many matters, including those that weren’t his business, and worse, those that could come across as inappropriate behavior.” Hendel described Hassan as “walking the thin line that separates criminal and non-criminal behavior.”

The affairs involving Hassan drew significant media attention when they broke.

The main accusation involves Dana Logistics, a private company registered in the name of Hassan’s friend Yaniv Balter. According to the charge sheet, Hassan and his cousin behaved fraudulently toward port customers in order to sell Dana’s services in oversight, in exchange for keeping port workers from striking or taking other labor actions. The company received tens of millions of shekels from port customers forced to work with the company, and part of that money went to Hassan.