Major Israeli construction company suspected of bribing African officials

Shikun & Binui former CEO said to be one of main suspects in payment of millions over many years; case could damage Israel’s image, says police official

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative image of a housing construction site in Tel Aviv, December 1, 2016. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative image of a housing construction site in Tel Aviv, December 1, 2016. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Four people were arrested Thursday in an international bribery case involving tens of millions of dollars allegedly paid by a major Israeli construction company to African government officials over many years, police said.

The case, investigated by the police anti-fraud unit Lahav 433 and revealed to the public on Sunday, involves Shikun & Binui, one of Israel’s largest construction and infrastructure companies, which has many projects in Israel and around the world. Senior executives arrested earlier this week are suspected of making the illicit payments to support construction projects in unnamed countries in Africa.

Ofer Kotler, former CEO of Shikun & Binui, was arrested in the case, and on Thursday had his remand extended until Tuesday at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, Hebrew-language media reported. Kotler was sent to house arrest for a deposit of NIS 500,000 ($143,000), is forbidden from contacting any of the others suspects and is prohibited from leaving the country.

Another senior official in the company, who is said to be the main suspect along with Kotler, and whose name is under a court gag, had his detention extended until Sunday.

The four freshly arrested suspects are reportedly current and former employees of a European second tier subsidiary of Shikun & Binui.

A police investigator reportedly said during the remand hearing that the case has seen “significant and dramatic developments sufficient to support the suspicions.”

“If the suspicions attributed to the company and its executives turn out to be true, it is hard to estimate the damage to Israel’s image in the affair,” the police representative said.

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