An Israeli man was convicted on Sunday of selling large quantities of steel products to a Gaza merchant affiliated with Hamas. The ruling said that these products could have been used for the Gaza-based group's military buildup.
Michael Peretz, who lives in the community of Mivtachim, near the Gaza border, was convicted of various security offenses, including contact with a foreign agent. However, he was acquitted on charges of aiding an enemy during wartime.
He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime, aggravated fraud, money laundering and tax offenses.
The Be’er Sheva District Court found that from late 2013 until early 2015, Peretz sold goods, primarily steel, to Gaza merchants, one of whom was close to Hamas and suspected of transferring the merchandise to the organization. This meant trading with him was illegal, and Peretz was warned of that fact. Nevertheless, he continued the illicit trade, using various tricks to disguise his wares and evade or deceive the soldiers manning the border crossing.
“Even if we take a lenient attitude toward the defendant, because he didn’t intend to undermine national security ... he still committed actions that did undermine national security,” the court wrote. Moreover, it said, during the trial, Peretz was clearly dismissive of the charges against him and “repeatedly refused to answer difficult questions truthfully.”
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On top of his security offenses, Peretz failed to report millions of shekels in revenue to avoid repaying his creditors, who had obtained a receivership order against him. To achieve this, he conducted his business under his father’s name and registered vehicles used in the business to other relatives.
Yet during his courtroom testimony, he treated these tricks “as if they were legitimate tax planning, in which a business is structured to reduce its tax obligations, rather than a blatant smuggling of assets from the receiver and the creditors,” the court said.