Top Basketball Ref Out on Bail After Grilling on Fanan Affair

Veteran basketball referee Sami Bachar was questioned yesterday by the Income Tax Authority on suspicion of failing to declare income he received as a referee at games abroad. Bachar is also suspected of involvement in the investment activities of Maccabi Tel Aviv board chairman Moni Fanan, who committed suicide in October, allegedly over losses in investments he had made for others in the basketball world.

Following several hours of questioning, Bachar was arrested and subsequently released on NIS 550,000 bail set by the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.

In the Fanan affair, Bachar, 50, who is a well-regarded international basketball referee, was the first person to be arrested after being questioned, to be brought to court and released on bail. He is also the first basketball referee to be questioned by the Income Tax Authority in the affair - so far the authority has questioned only coaches, current and former players and others connected to the Maccabi Tel Aviv hoopsters.

After a weeks-long hiatus in the questioning of suspects, Bachar's questioning signals a renewal of the open investigations and possibly other arrests.

After Fanan's suicide, media reports broadly hinted that Bachar was among those involved in Fanan's alleged investments. Bachar filed a NIS 500,000 libel suit against Haaretz and two of its writers for publishing reports linking him to Fanan's alleged "investment bank."

In 2006, Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team and its players accused Bachar of favoring Maccabi Tel Aviv when he refereed the State Cup final between Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv. At that time, Fanan was the TA Maccabi club manager and one of its controlling owners.

The Income Tax Authority says it has collected evidence allegedly showing that Bachar concealed hundreds of thousands of shekels of income earned in games abroad, which he supposedly invested in Fanan's "bank."

Bachar's home was searched yesterday, and numerous documents and statements from foreign banks were found. According to the remand request submitted to the court yesterday, Bachar admitted to tax evasion from 2003 to 2009.