83 arrested in East Jerusalem in suspected Interior Ministry scheme
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83 arrested in East Jerusalem in suspected Interior Ministry scheme

Four ministry employees allegedly took bribes to provide expedited service at congested offices, hoarded appointments through app to sell to residents

Palestinians queue in front of the Interior Ministry branch in East Jerusalem, July 6, 2008.  (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)
Palestinians queue in front of the Interior Ministry branch in East Jerusalem, July 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

Police have arrested 83 East Jerusalem residents, including four Interior Ministry employees, suspected in a pay-to-play scheme at the ministry’s East Jerusalem offices.

The offices have been under considerable strain in recent years and have failed to supply efficient service, with appointments fully booked months in advance and residents facing hours of waiting in line.

The employees are believed to have taken advantage of the situation, accepting bribes amounting to hundreds of thousands of shekels in exchange for shorter wait times.

Police said a clandestine investigation had been launched several months ago, which included use of an undercover agent in the ministry. Following its completion, police arrested 83 suspects on charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering and breach of trust, including the four employees and six intermediaries. The rest are suspected of participating in the system.

Police search the home of a suspect in an alleged pay-to-play scheme in the Interior Ministry’s East Jerusalem offices (Israel Police)

The employees are alleged to have created an ordered price list of the bribes required for various services — including the issuing of ID cards, birth certificates, travel certificates and more — and receiving the money through middlemen.

They are also suspected of hoarding thousands of appointments through a ministry app which they then sold to locals, thus further enriching themselves while making it increasingly difficult to gain access without their assistance.

The four employees have had their remand extended, while the rest of the suspects have been released under investigation.

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