Police Want Charges Against Hapoalim’s Ex-chairman

Bank’s new CEO may also be charged over loan.

The police have recommended indicting former Bank Hapoalim chairman Danny Dankner on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.

They also recommended charging the bank’s former CEO, Zion Kenan, with breach of trust. The findings have been sent to the prosecution, which must now decide whether to press charges.

Zion Kenan

The police suspect Dankner, who chaired the bank from 2007 to 2009, of having advanced his private business interests at the expense of those of the bank.

The primary suspicions relate to Hapoalim’s purchase of Turkey’s BankPozitif in 2005.

Initially, Hapoalim negotiated the acquisition in conjunction with another company, RP Capital, which was also supposed to acquire some of Pozitif’s shares. But RP ultimately never did so, and in early 2008, police say, Dankner persuaded the bank to award RP heavy financial compensation of around $25 million for relinquishing their option to buy the shares.

At the time, RP was a business partner of the Elran Group, which is owned by the Dankner family. But in persuading the bank’s board to approve the payment, Dankner allegedly concealed his business ties to RP.

Then, in late 2008 and early 2009, Dankner persuaded Hapoalim to take various steps to solve Pozitif’s liquidity problems, including purchasing additional shares of the Turkish bank. At about the same time, he obtained a loan of 5 million euros from DHB, a Dutch bank whose parent company also owns shares in Pozitif.

But Dankner did not inform Hapoalim’s board about this loan, which police suspect was essentially a payoff from DHB in exchange for boosting the profitability of its parent’s holdings in Pozitif.

Dankner’s lawyers, Yoram Raved, Joseph Benkel and Navot Telzur, said in a statement yesterday that they are sure their client acted in good faith, and that when the prosecution examines the evidence, it will conclude that no crime was committed.

The suspicions against Kenan stem from a $3.4 million loan that Hapoalim gave Dankner in October 2008. Police say that Kenan, then head of the bank’s business division, gave false information to the committee that approved the loan.

He implied that a report on Dankner’s assets was sitting in the bank’s safe, when in fact it had not yet been received at the time the committee met, and may not even have been written yet. This is a critical detail, because by law, a person affiliated with a bank must submit such a report in order to obtain a loan from that bank.

Kenan’s lawyer, Zvi Agmon, said he found the police recommendations astounding, as the loan to Dankner was properly approved by the appropriate bank committee, and was repaid in full about a year ago.

Last August, police recommended charging Dankner in another case, involving suspicions that he bribed officials of the Israel Lands Administration to advance the real estate interests of another Dankner-owned company, Israel Salt Industries. That case is also awaiting a decision by the prosecution.