The Ashdod Port management has been ordered to probe the private business transactions of the port's most powerful union head, who allegedly conducts deals worth millions of shekels with port clients - a possible conflict of interest.
The Finance Ministry's Government Companies Authority last week demanded the port's directorate hold an urgent discussion about Alon Hassan's business affairs and submit its findings within two weeks. The report will be passed on to the attorney general.
As Haaretz reported last year, Hassan, who is paid some NIS 400,000 a year as a workers' union chairman, runs private businesses with an estimated income of millions of shekels. Some of the transactions are with clients of the Ashdod Port Company, suggesting a conflict of interest.
For example, Hassan has a company called Ben Idan Trucking, which received hundreds of thousands of shekels from the Agrexco Agricultural Export Company, whose ships are loaded and unloaded by the Ashdod Port workers, headed by Hassan. Hassan's company also provided trucking services to two custom clearing agencies located in the port.
Hassan confirmed these details to Haaretz and said the trucking company works with other port clients as well. But he said he does not run the company himself and has never provided services to the port. According to a legal opinion he ordered, no conflict of interest existed, he said. The port management backed his claim.
But at a meeting with Haaretz, Hassan frequently checked the company trucks' location on a GPS application.
Haaretz reported a few months ago that another company owned by Hassan, A.Y. Hops Industries, which produces detergents, sells goods to the port. The sale is conducted through Clear Hold ings and Investments, a company founded in 2009 by Daniella Zaban, a family relative of Hassan, and Baruch Ronen.
Hassan denied at the time any business ties with the port and said he doesn't "sell anything to the port."
"Clear Holdings buys materials from me, perhaps it sells to the port, I don't see any problem with this," Hassan said.
Hassan, 42, is the real boss of Israel's largest port. He started working there over 20 years ago and became a union member six years later. Since then he has been elected twice head of the mechanical equipment union, the largest and most powerful of the port's unions. Hassan is a member of the port's production councils, which consist of two workers' and two management representatives each. The councils decide on numerous issues, from the workers' wages to work procedures.
In the last four years Hassan has stopped the port's work on three occasions to celebrate family events.
Hassan set up his trucking company in 2010 and serves as a member of the board of directors, with his good friend Yigal Gosland, who had worked for years as heavy equipment instructor in the port for a monthly wage of some NIS 40,000.
In July 2011 Gosland was convicted of setting fire to a pub he owned for the insurance money and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Despite the grave indictment, Gosland continued drawing a salary from the port for three years until his conviction. Hassan helped him during the trial, signed bail for him after his arrest and set up joint business companies with him.
The Trajtenberg Committee's report on the cost of living, prompted by last summer's social-justice protests, found "the inferior service and low production in Israel's ports cost the economy, which depends heavily on the ports, hundreds of millions of shekels a year. This is before taking into consideration the indirect damage, stemming from the business uncertainty imposed on the economy bu the disruptions [in the ports' work] and delays in developing new port infrastructures."
The report did not include the cost of the port workers' wages, which are three times higher than the average wage in Israel.
Ashdod Port CEO Yehoshua Sagis says he sees nothing wrong with Hassan's private business transactions in the port. The port management refused to provide details of the scope of Hassan's companies' activity within the port or of Hassan's financial ties with port clients.
"The company does not think it needs to examine these issues," the port said.
The Finance Ministry's Government Companies Authority coordinates the activity of some 100 government companies, such as the ports, the Electric Corporation, Israel Military Industries, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Mekorot. Its director is Doron Cohen, who is also director general of the ministry.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now