Probe of Ashdod Union Hassan Widens

Auditors examining whether leader has greater conflicts of interest than first suspected.

Following earlier disclosures about an alleged conflict of interest on the part of the chairman of the Ashdod port union, Alon Hassan, due to purported ties to companies providing services to port customers, an outside auditing firm hired by the port management is now looking into the possibility the alleged conflict was broader than initially thought.

The auditors now have information indicating that Hassan, who suspended himself from his post after the initial disclosures, and his business partner, Yaniv Baltar, may have had other ties with companies providing services to port customers, mainly involving logistics and cleaning services. Baltar is an Ashdod businessman who, along with Hassan, is among several owners of a local restaurant. Baltar also owns the seaport logistics company Dana Port, whose CEO is Hassan’s cousin, David Hassan. Even though neither Baltar nor David Hassan had any previous experience with ports, Dana Port has expanded its business at Ashdod Port at a dizzying pace since it was founded in 2010.

In light of the new information, the accounting firm, Rosenblum Holtzman, asked for more time before it submits its final report on the alleged business ties between the port union leader’s personal business interests and port customers. The report is now expected to be submitted to the port's board of directors in the middle of next month.

In related developments, the Histadrut labor federation is expected to consider returning Hassan to his post, three months after he suspended himself from the position in the wake of public criticism and concern expressed by the Histadrut itself. A three-member Histadrut panel appointed to determine whether Hassan had violated labor federation regulations is expected to submit its findings next week. Hassan insists there is no conflict between his private business interests and his position at the port, and he should therefore return to his job.

Katz to Histadrut: ‘Don’t you hear the public?’

One source at the port expressed amazement that the Histadrut would even consider reinstating Hassan before the accounting firm submits its report to the port's board of directors, and before the findings are submitted to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira. "Up to now, the investigation has shown that Hassan's businesses at the port developed from 2008 into an octopus of sorts that stuck its tentacles into a range of areas," the source said, adding that Hassan's possible reinstatement is also surprising in light of the port board's request that police examine whether Hassan's conduct is criminal. The Histadrut noted on Tuesday that its panel looking into the matter, headed by Histadrut legal counsel Yehiel Shamir, is a committee of professionals.

Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, writing on his Facebook page, urged the labor federation to steer clear of Hassan. "Don’t you hear the public? Don't bother with Hassan," he wrote.

Shiran Granot