Bank Hapoalim apologizes for its handling of alleged sexual assault case

Ex-employee claims to have been attacked by bank’s former CEO on work trip abroad in 2007

Former Bank Hapoalim CEO Zion Kenan (Flash90)
Former Bank Hapoalim CEO Zion Kenan (Flash90)

Bank Hapoalim apologized on Friday for its handling of an allegation of sexual assault against its former CEO Zion Kenan. The incident involved Kenan’s alleged sexual assault of a former employee of the bank that took place while they were on a trip to Kazakhstan nearly a decade ago, after which she was paid millions of shekels.

The incident was not reported to the Bank of Israel’s supervisor of banks, or to the bank’s directorate, current Hapoalim Chairman Yair Sarousi acknowledged on Friday, apologizing for its handling of the incident. The supervisor is now to launch a probe into the incident, with which Bank Hapoalim has promised full cooperation.

During a work trip to the central Asian country that preceded the purchase by Bank Hapoalim of the Kazakh branch of Turkish Bank Pozitif in 2007, the employee said she was plied with alcohol and intimidated into coming up to Kenan’s hotel room where she was assaulted before passing out.

The employee, identified as M., said she was given some NIS 6 million ($1.6 million) after a mediation process with the bank that followed her complaint.

The incident came to light on Channel 2 on Thursday during which M. gave her account of the events. She said that Kenan, a then-senior staffer at the bank who was quickly climbing the corporate ladder, took a number of employees out to a nightclub one night while in Kazakhstan in the city of Almaty.

The woman said Kenan gave her round after round of alcohol and pressured her to drink. She recounted how later, other employees expressed concern for her well-being and one of them even gave her some food to help absorb some of the alcohol she consumed.

She said that another employee present that night, identified as A., switched her vodka with water. “I tasted the water and then Zion understood and told A., ‘Why are you giving her water instead of vodka? Let her drink, let her drink.'”

“Zion wasn’t drinking, he was just giving me drinks, and [suddenly] I see half a bottle of vodka is finished, he was getting me inebriated – there was all this pressure on me,” M. told Channel 2.

A conversation between M. and A. was also aired in the TV report: “Do you remember how it all started? I’ll never forget how we went… to the nightclub, and I remember how you tried to save me. Remember that?” M. tells A. “And Zion was pouring us vodkas and you saved me, switched the vodkas with water. You tried to save me. Remember that, darling? You put water when he couldn’t see and then he said, ‘Why are you replacing her vodka with water.'”

“He and [another senior officer at the bank] were naughty about these things,” A. said in response.

Later that evening, M. said Kenan invited her to his hotel room and she went, saying she was afraid because he was “[a] God at the bank, everyone feared him… He was my boss, he was my manager.”

She said Kenan began sexually assaulting her, after which she started losing consciousness. When she came to, M. said she was naked and Kenan was still mid-assault. The precise nature of his acts was not disclosed on Channel 2.

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