Fugitive celebrity chef arrested at Ben Gurion Airport
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Fugitive celebrity chef arrested at Ben Gurion Airport

Raphi Cohen, formerly of Tel Aviv's upscale Raphael restaurant, wanted for millions of shekels in debt

Chef Rafi Cohen, arrested at Ben Gurion Airport on September 7, 2017, seen during better times at his Raphael restaurant in Tel Aviv. (Moshe Shai/FLASh90)
Chef Rafi Cohen, arrested at Ben Gurion Airport on September 7, 2017, seen during better times at his Raphael restaurant in Tel Aviv. (Moshe Shai/FLASh90)

A well-known Israeli chef who closed his popular, upscale Tel Aviv restaurant without warning in April and fled the country for France was arrested Wednesday at Ben Gurion Airport, upon his return to the country.

Raphi Cohen, owner of the Raphael restaurant, was taken to a police station and was due Thursday to appear in Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to have his remand extended.

After Cohen’s disappearance, his employees asked the courts for a closure order on the restaurant, saying that their salaries had not been paid since February, that the restaurant had run up debts of over NIS 100,000 ($28,000), and that suppliers were knocking at the doors, putting pressure on the workers to pay them hundreds of thousands of shekels owed.

A liquidator determined that the restaurant owed some NIS 500,000 ($140,000) to employees and another NIS 1.5 million ($422,000) to suppliers. Two companies owned by Cohen also owed NIS 600,000 (170,000) to Dan Hotels and an additional NIS 1.5 million to the tax authorities.

Police told the court he is suspected of threatening employees of Bank Leumi and sought to have him undergo a psychiatric evaluation, Ynet reported.

In May, speaking to Channel 2 news from an undisclosed location in France, Cohen denied running away and said he had traveled overseas “for all sorts of reasons, and stayed.”

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