Ashdod Port Lost NIS 7 Million Due to Union Boss' Dealings, Auditors Say

Ashdod Port has suspended its commercial dealings with three companies tied to port union boss Alon Hassan.

The state-owned Ashdod Port lost at least NIS 7 million due to the activities of companies owned by port union boss Alon Hassan, according to an external auditor's report submitted to the government on Sunday.

The report's findings focused on the activities of three companies that operate at the port, providing logistical services to port customers. All three are apparently connected to Hassan.

One company, Dana Port, is owned by Hassan's business partner Yaniv Balter. The audit revealed that the company benefitted from a generous allotment of port infrastructure and approval to operate freely with the port's clients, even at the expense of port workers.

For example, between September 2012 and June 2013, Dana Port was charged rent for a 500 square meter warehouse, when it actually received 2,200 square meters space from the port. The difference cost the port NIS 730,000 in lost rental income. Dana Port also paid rent for open-air space at the port at a price NIS 1.6 million below regular prices. The company, in violation of its contract, did not employ port workers or lease work equipment from the port, shortchanging port revenues by NIS 2.6 million and NIS 2.1 million respectively.

The auditors said that Hassan and Balter refused to cooperate with them.

"The minister views these things with great seriousness and has instructed Ashdod Port's management to implement the law with all the involved parties," the office of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said in response to the report. "The minister has also ordered that the ports reform proceed with full force."

Hassan's lawyer responded by saying that, overall, the audit's finding were positive for his client, showing no preference given to trucks belonging to a company connected to Hassan and that no ties between Hassan and Dana Port were found.

In the wake of the audit, the port has for temporarily suspended its ties with the three companies and revoked the entry permits of 92 Dana Port employees.

The auditors also examined the contract between the port and a cleaning company owned by one of Hassan's relatives. The audit found that the port had purchased NIS 1 million worth of special cleaning products from the company in an irregular tender.

A third company, a moving company owned by Hassan that provided services to 140 importers and 22 exporters that have used the port since 2011, was also examined. However, the report stated that there was no evidence that the company's trucks had received preferential treatment.

The report of the audit, which was launched after a Haaretz investigative report two years ago. was presented to the Ashdod Port's board last week.

Ilya Melnikov