Police arrested four employees of the Jerusalem Religious Council on suspicion of fraud on Sunday, detaining one of the council’s senior staffers for questioning.
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Aside from fraud, the employees are suspected of breach of trust and exploiting their positions to obtain illicit benefits. The fraud squad also raided their houses and offices and seized various documents.
Police said the arrests stemmed from a lengthy undercover investigation. They haven’t yet decided whether to seek the court’s permission to keep the employees in detention.
The employees – and in one instance, one of their spouses – are suspected of having flown overseas on the tab of private companies that won tenders to provide services to the religious council. They are also suspected of receiving benefits from organizations that are under the council’s kashrut supervision.
In addition, one employee is suspected of having lived rent-free for years in a luxurious building owned by the council in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood. The building, which at one time contained a ritual bath for men that served the neighborhood, was sold last year for some 20 million shekels ($5.2 million).
The Religious Services Ministry said it will look into the affair.
MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), who has sponsored legislation to end the official rabbinate’s monopoly over kashrut supervision, said she wasn’t surprised by the arrests, as indictments have previously been filed against senior staffers on the Netanya and Holon religious councils.
“For years, we’ve warned about a corrupt system that suffers from unbridled monopolistic power,” she said.