Police reveal ‘massive’ defense agency bribery scheme
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Police reveal ‘massive’ defense agency bribery scheme

Court lifts gag order on December 2016 arrest of 7 people suspected of tilting military tenders towards civilian companies who gave kickbacks

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Illustrative: The offices of Israel Police's  Lahav 433 Unit in Lod. (Flash 90)
Illustrative: The offices of Israel Police's Lahav 433 Unit in Lod. (Flash 90)

Israel Police announced Tuesday that its elite Lahav 433 anti-fraud unit arrested in December 2016 seven people on suspicion of masterminding a far-reaching bribery and graft scheme in an Israeli defense agency.

According to a police statement, three of the seven suspects are current or past employees of an Israeli defense agency. The three are suspected of accepting “massive” bribes to tilt tenders in favor of civilian companies represented by the four other suspects, police said.

The suspects spent “many weeks” under arrest, and are now free with court-imposed limitations, the statement added.

The arrests were made public after the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court partially lifted a gag order on the case. Details of the suspects and the name of the defense agency, however, remain blocked for publication.

In a separate fraud investigation involving Israel’s security establishment, police have detained more than a dozen people over the past week, including six career soldiers, suspected of taking part in an embezzlement scheme.

An IDF lieutenant colonel suspected of involvement in the scheme was suspended for two weeks on Thursday, with the potential for further disciplinary measures should the allegations against him prove accurate, the army said.

The civilian suspects are employees of a company that provides maintenance services to army bases. They are believed to have embezzled “huge sums” by charging the army for work they never actually completed, police said. Meanwhile, the IDF personnel — the lieutenant colonel, four majors and a senior non-commissioned officer — are suspected of looking the other way in exchange for bribes.

On Thursday, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court allowed the police to keep two of the IDF personnel and four of the civilians in custody. One suspect was placed under house arrest earlier in the week, while the rest were released.

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