Ex-finance minister Kahlon grilled over alleged involvement in credit firm scandal

Lawyer for former Kulanu leader insist ‘his time as chairman of Unet was directed toward the benefit of the public’

Then-Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon holds a press conference at the Finance Ministry office in Jerusalem, September 23, 2019. (Flash90)
Then-Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon holds a press conference at the Finance Ministry office in Jerusalem, September 23, 2019. (Flash90)

Former finance minister Moshe Kahlon was interrogated by the Israel Securities Authority on Monday as part of an ongoing investigation into the Unet non-banking credit company, where Kahlon served as chairman of the board until recently.

Kahlon was interrogated for about two hours, according to reports. He is suspected of failing to report the company’s discrepancies before he resigned last month.

The company has been involved in a series of scandals over the past year surrounding repeated inconsistencies in its funds that attracted the attention of authorities.

Kahlon “welcomes the interrogation and is fully cooperating with law enforcement officials,” read a statement issued by Kahlon’s attorney, Nati Simchoni.

“We are positive that once the investigation is complete it will prove without a doubt that [Kahlon’s] reputation has not been tainted. Nobody can refute Mr. Kahlon’s integrity and moral path. He has been a public figure his entire life. As such, his time as chairman of Unet was also directed toward the benefit of the public,” the statement added.

Four senior company figures were arrested last Tuesday — former CEO Yitzhak Ezer, Nazareth branch head Yitzhak Eviatar, and controlling shareholders Shlomo Isaac and Shai Penso. They were released by a court under restrictive conditions, including an order barring them from leaving Israel for 180 days.

Then-Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaks during an event of the Movement for the Quality of Government in Modiin, February 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Securities Authority said in a statement that “the involved individuals are suspected of stealing tens of thousands of shekels from the public company, which were then transferred to a private company, of which Ezer, Isaac and Penso are shareholders.”

The authority has alleged the suspects committed fraud and hid their activities from the company and the public by “falsely registering the company’s documents and forging documents.”

Over the past year, Unet has lost millions of shekels, including NIS 10.6 million ($3 million) worth of missing checks and a loan of NIS 37.5 million ($10.8 million) given to Zoabi Holding in Nazareth that it is unable to collect.

The company also revealed last week that it had discovered another inconsistency in its books, which included a transaction of up to NIS 50 million ($14.4 million) made to a private company that was “not approved as required by law and not reported to the public,” the Israel Hayom daily reported.

In May, robbers disguised as food deliverymen stole NIS 3.5 million ($1 million) from the company’s main branch in Holon. They were suspected by former company executives of being aided from within.

Finally, an internal audit last month found a discrepancy of NIS 7.7 million ($2.23 million) in the company’s books.

Kahlon had resigned from his position at the company last month when news broke its alleged criminal activities, saying at the time that “the company may have significant financial exposure, which was caused by events that occurred before I joined.”

The Securities Authority is currently headed by Anat Guetta, whom Kahlon himself nominated for the position in 2017.

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