Israeli Supermarket Mogul Questioned Under Caution by Police

Rami Levy released with restrictions in probe of ex-employee’s accusations.

Rami Levy
Ofer Vaknin

Supermarket chain owner Rami Levy and his son-in-law Ophir Atias were questioned under caution two days ago by the Jerusalem District Police, the company disclosed on Wednesday. Atias manages the company’s cell phone subsidiary.

TheMarker reported on Wednesday that three Rami Levy executives had been questioned regarding allegations by a former employee. Elkana Alon has said Levy and others ignored incidents of sexual harassment, engaged in nepotism and also violated the terms of the company’s cellular license by allowing the parent company to access the cellular database.

On Wednesday, Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma stated in a notice to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that Levy and Atias were among the executives questioned.

Atias and another executive were released to house arrest two days ago, and were questioned again on Wednesday. Levy was released with restrictions two days ago, and has not been questioned again.

The investigation is focusing on misuse of cellular customers’ data, and is being conducted jointly by the police and the Justice Ministry’s Law, Information and Technology Authority.

In its statement to the stock exchange, the company denied making inappropriate use of customer data, and said company representatives are cooperating with investigators.

The investigation began in January, when Alon, formerly the company’s manager of cellular operations, was questioned under caution. Alon had publicized his allegations via a long Facebook post, in which he also demanded immediate payment of 450,000 shekels (about $115,000).

All cellular companies have databases containing a list of customers as well as additional information about them. Furthermore, the companies are able to track customers’ calls and locations. Police and investigative bodies can access this information, but they need a court order to do so.

Alon alleged that Levy and his family members made inappropriate use of the database in order to pull data on employees and customers.

Levy and Alon did not respond to requests for comment.

Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma’s stock price dropped 3.5% on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Wednesday, after publication of the statement. The company’s share is down 7.6% for the year, and off 10.5% from its peak in 2015. The company currently trades at a market cap of 2.23 billion shekels, only 20% less than the market cap of Israel’s largest supermarket chain, Shufersal.