Eight individuals and five travel companies were indicted Wednesday for alleged price-fixing for travel arrangements for Holocaust education trips to Poland provided to Israeli schools and other institutions.
The charges also allege that the defendant committed aggravated fraud, money laundering and bribery in an effort to limit competition among the travel service providers and to maximize their profits in providing youth trips to Poland, which in many Israeli high schools are organized every year.
In 2009, the Education Ministry invited bids to create a database of travel providers for Holocaust education trips to Poland in an effort to reduce the cost of the trips and make it easier for schools and other institutions to compare what the suppliers were offering.
The indicted companies include Gesher Tours, I. Hillel, Diesenhaus Travel and Terminal 1, as well as Academy Travel — which was two different companies incorporated with similar names at two different times.
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According to the indictment, shortly after the companies were entered into the Education Ministry database, the defendants came to agreement that, according to the indictment, provided that “they would refrain from competing on independent delegations that one of them had organized.”
In other words, they allegedly agreed to divide up the market and if one school had been organizing its trips through Gesher Tours, I. Hillel would not compete for the business and vice versa.
The indictment alleges that between 2010 and the beginning of the investigation in 2016, the defendants falsely presented the Education Ministry with the impression that there was competition among them while secretly coordinating their moves behind the scenes.
It further alleges that the arrangement generated hundreds of millions of shekels in revenues for the travel firms, with I. Hillel alone receiving 300 million shekels ($82 million) and Academy allegedly received about 196 million shekels in business.