Prosecution Lines Up 129 Witnesses for Trial of Former Israeli Bank Chief

Former Bank Hapoalim chief Danny Dankner was indicted Sunday for four cases involving a multitude of charges including aggravated fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.

The list of 129 prosecution witnesses, which includes a veritable who's who of Israel's rich and famous, promises to make the trial of former Bank Hapoalim chairman Danny Dankner a riveting affair.

In all likelihood, however, not all witnesses will be called to testify - or the trial could drag on for years. Dankner was indicted Sunday for four cases involving a multitude of charges including aggravated fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.

One type of issue likely to arise in the trial is verifying that commercial contracts or loan agreements presented as evidence are genuine. If the defense lawyers dispute the originality of such documents or claim changes were made after signing, those who prepared the document or countersigned it would need to testify, and this could drag out the proceedings.

The witnesses listed by the prosecutors could be largely broken down into four groups: Former and current members of the top echelons at Bank Hapoalim, other business partners and associates, personnel from the Bank of Israel's banks supervisory department and members of the Dankner family.

Leading the list of prosecution witnesses from Hapoalim is its controlling owner Shari Arison, who fought tooth and nail in support of Dankner against the regulators.

Joining her are former chairman of the bank Shlomo Nehama, who was toppled from the post by Arison in 2007 on behalf on Dankner; Prof. Amir Barnea, a director of the bank who opposed Nehama's dismissal and was himself ousted under pressure from Dankner; CEO Zion Kenan and former CEO Zvi Ziv.

The list also includes directors Irit Izakson and Efrat Peled, considered Arison's right-hand woman, as well as Ido Disenchik and Prof. Ronen Israel, who served simultaneously on the boards of Hapoalim and Dankner's Elran Investments.

People involved with Dankner in business dealings, particularly relating to Elran Investments, are also expected to take the stand. These include Babylon controlling owner Noam Lanir who had bought Elran stock, and six officials from Bank DHB.

Rony Hizkiyahu and David Zaken, respectively the former and current bank supervisors at the Bank of Israel, top the list of watchdogs. The witness list includes 10 staff members of the central bank's supervisory section. Spared from being called to take the stand, however, is governor Stanley Fischer.

As a family with a tradition of combining business with pleasure, it's no wonder that Danny Dankner's brothers Alon and Gadi, his partners in Elran, are being called to testify, as well as uncles Dori Dankner and Shmuel Dankner.

The case will be tried by Tel Aviv District Court judge George Karra. Karra is known to be a pleasant, patient, thorough and knowledgeable judge, but his specialty is not white-collar crime.

The two judges who do deal with this area, however, had to disqualify themselves. Chaled Kabub had a potential conflict of interest stemming from his son having interned under attorney Navot Tel-Zur, who is serving on Dankner's defense team, while Oded Mudrik had a conflict in that his son-in-law heads the state prosecution team that indicted Dankner.