Court Memo Reveals Rift Between Bank Hapoalim Owner Shari Arison and Former Chairman Dankner

A newly released court memo offers a surprising revelation about what the bank owner really thought of her chairman's leadership.

Back in 2009, there was a tug of war over Danny Dankner, then-chairman of Bank Hapoalim. Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and banks supervisor Rony Hizkiyahu fought for his dismissal while Shari Arison, the bank’s owner, defended him, claiming she had “full trust in him and in his leadership.” 

When Dankner announced his resignation that year, Arison appointed him CEO of Arison Investments, but his tenure ended shortly after his arrest in April 2010. Now a court memo is being revealed for the first time in Haaretz in which Arison expresses regret for defending him.

Arison’s full statement to the police reveals a rift between her and Dankner, and offers a surprising revelation about what she really thought of his leadership. 

According to the memo, prepared by Chief Superintendent Yoram Neeman, head of the National Fraud Squad’s finance department, Arison was upset following her preliminary testimony on August 9, 2010. When Neeman asked her why, she replied that she was “disappointed with all of Danny Dankner’s actions and behavior as they had been presented to her during her questioning.”

“Arison told me that if Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer had shown her some of the facts that were shown to her during the investigation, she would not have kept Danny Dankner in his position at Bank Hapoalim, nor would she have employed him at Arison Investments," Neeman recalled in the memo. "Ms. Arison told me she was very glad that Dankner was no longer employed at Arison Investments… and only regretted having fought for him against Fischer.”

The investigation that led to Dankner's arrest began after the Bank Supervision Department at the Bank of Israel expressed suspicion of criminal activity.

Last October, about three years after Dankner’s dismissal from Bank Hapoalim, he was served a heavy indictment that is now being heard in the Tel Aviv District Court. The indictment, which was submitted by the economic affairs department of the State Prosecutor’s Office, charges Dankner with conflict of interest in four separate cases.

As a businessman and owner of a public company while at the bank, Dankner is accused of promoting bank transactions with his personal business partners without reporting it to the bank’s board of directors. He is also charged with lying to senior bank officials about his personal capital and using his secretary’s bank account for his personal needs. The indictment charges him with corporate fraud and breach of trust against Bank Hapoalim, compromising the management of the bank's transactions, receiving goods by means of fraud and money laundering.

Arison has remained silent since Dankner's resignation. When he left Arison Investments, two months before Arison was questioned by police, an announcement read, “We part in love and friendship. I hope that justice and truth will come to light.” According to the recently revealed memo, Arison didn't know what was going on at the bank during Dankner’s term as chairman.

In another memo, Neeman details a call he received from Tal Atzmon, Arison's attorney. 

“Atzmon said that after what had been shown to Arison during questioning, she felt uncomfortable and asked permission to speak with Stanley Fischer," Neemon wrote. "Previously, [Fischer] wanted to dismiss Danny Dankner, before our investigation began. Atzmon said that Arison did not want to talk about the investigation. She only wished to clear the air with Fischer in light of what she had learned from the investigation because she had not heard these things from him.” 

Neeman said the conversation could not take place for fear the investigation would be disrupted.

Moti Kimche