Law and Order / Ref Indicted for Alleged Tax Evasion

Over a dozen others from soccer and hoops settle to tune of NIS 666,000 over unreported income from abroad.

The Israel Tax Authority is pursuing yet another soccer referee for allegedly failing to report NIS 850,000 in income earned abroad, the government body announced Sunday. The Tax Authority also stated in a report released on Sunday that it has settled with 13 basketball and soccer referees, who officiated abroad, for tax evasion in similar circumstances.

Tax officials say they suspect that Shmuel Bachar stashed away NIS 850,000 in earnings in banks in Greece and Bulgaria to avoid paying taxes in Israel. The white-collar crime prosecution office indicted him in December, marking the culmination of a two-year investigation by tax investigation staff in Tel Aviv and central Israel into earnings by Israeli basketball and soccer referees abroad.

The settlements with the 13 referees amounted to NIS 666,000, according to Sunday's report. The most prominent names were referees Asaf Kenan, Haim Yaacov and Meir Levi, as well as basketball referees David Dagan, Moshe Biton and Reuven Virovnik, former chairman of the referees association.

Kenan paid NIS 85,000 for allegedly failing to report NIS 283,000 in income between 2003 and 2008. Yaacov reportedly earned NIS 314,000 and settled for NIS 94,000. Levi apparently earned NIS 243,000 in unreported income from 2000 and 2009, and settled for NIS 72,000. Among the top basketball officials, Virovnik - who is now an El Al executive - settled for NIS 40,000 on allegedly unreported income of NIS 127,000 from 2001 to 2008; Dagan paid NIS 88,000 regarding a suspected NIS 296,000 in unreported income; and Biton paid NIS 95,000 for NIS 329,000 in allegedly unreported income.

Smaller sums were paid by soccer linesmen Shabtai Nahmias and Dani Karsikov, and basketball referees Omer Esteron, Sefi Shemesh and Yari Reinish. Other sports officials who settled were international observer Menashe Herman and Gil Azaria.

Authorities discovered the cases during the private investment bank scandal involving the late Moni Fanan.

The settlements are in addition to the amount paid through the civil legal process. Whoever agrees to settle avoids the prospect of facing criminal prosecution. The tax authorities weigh requests to settle based on the severity of the infraction, previous convictions, previous settlements, the suspect's personal and family circumstances and the public interest.

Of the 11 referees still actively working, none have been officially suspended for tax evasion by their respective referees' association.