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Police grill senior settlement officials over fraud suspicions

Ze’ev Hever and Moshe Yogev of the Amana group suspected of diverting state funds earmarked for Israeli towns in West Bank

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ze'ev 'Zambish' Hever eulogizes former premier Ariel Sharon at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 13, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Ze'ev 'Zambish' Hever eulogizes former premier Ariel Sharon at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 13, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Two senior members of West Bank settlement movement Amana are under investigation by police over suspicions they pocketed government funds earmarked for Israeli settlements.

Veteran settler leader and Amana head Ze’ev Hever, along with the organization’s treasurer Moshe Yogev, were questioned under caution by police investigators for several hours on Monday.

An interrogation session under caution is often a precursor to the opening of a criminal investigation.

According to reports, police suspect the two had illicitly channeled Finance Ministry funding meant for West Bank settlements to their organization, a major driver of Israeli construction projects in the West Bank.

Hever and Yogev were released under restrictive conditions later on Monday. Police banned both from Finance Ministry offices as well as from the Amana office from which the alleged transfers were made.

Last month, an investigative TV report said that 14 out of 15 of Amana’s recent purchases of Palestinian land in the West Bank were fraudulent.

The West Bank outpost of Amona (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of the West Bank outpost of Amona (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

According to Channel 10 news, the areas included contested land in several flashpoint settlements and outposts, such as Migron, Amona and Givat Asaf, where court-ordered evacuations and demolitions of buildings for which the settlers could not show ownership have drawn angry denunciations and protests by settler leaders and government ministers in recent years.

Police were asked by the High Court of Justice to look into settlers’ claims that the lands were purchased. In the 15 deals police examined, all were determined to be invalid, with 14 believed to have been instances of fraud. Police have submitted the findings to the state prosecution.

The deals were all carried out by Al-Watan, a company operating under the Amana group. In response, Al-Watan told the TV station: “All the land was purchased lawfully and registered lawfully under the company’s name. This is racism and anti-Semitism of the most vile sort, and it’s a shame that Channel 10 contributed to it.”

The report names Hever, known by the nickname “Zambish,” as one of the most influential personages in the settlement movement and a key figure in the deals in question.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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