Senior defense ministry official suspected of stealing tens of millions
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Senior defense ministry official suspected of stealing tens of millions

Police believe money was paid out to contractors based on inflated work reports and jobs that weren't carried out

The Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv, August 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv, August 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A senior official in the Defense Ministry was arrested and questioned Monday morning on suspicion that he coordinated with contractors to fraudulently spend millions in public funds on inflated projects or work that was never completed.

Police said in a statement that the suspect, who was not identified, was questioned under caution.

Three others were also detained in light of evidence that they were also involved in crimes of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, and other offenses, police said.

The investigation, carried out by the Lahav 433 national crime squad’s economic crime unit, uncovered apparent cooperation between the senior ministry official and the contractors, the statement said. The suspects are believed to have received tens of millions of shekels in army money over several years by demanding payments for work that wasn’t carried out or was only partly done.

Police further suspect that the senior official reported an inflated scope of work for some projects to increase the profits for contractors while also concealing from the ministry the actual work done.

Police said the investigation came as part of a focus on enforcement against offenses relating to the use of public funds.

In December police arrested 20 people, including senior IDF officers, Defense Ministry officials, and employees from two technology firms, on suspicion that they stole more than NIS 100 million ($28 million) from the Defense Ministry.

The suspects are believed to have run a fraud scheme that charged the Defense Ministry for expensive military telecommunications work that investigators say was never carried out, or that was carried out only in part.

It was not immediately clear if the two cases were related.

In October 2017, police detained more than a dozen people, including six career soldiers, suspected of taking part in another IDF-linked fraud. The civilian suspects were 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.

In that case, the IDF personnel — a lieutenant colonel, four majors and a senior non-commissioned officer — are suspected of looking the other way in exchange for bribes.

The incidents come alongside what is known as “Case 3000,” a major corruption scandal in which authorities are investigating alleged corruption and bribery involved in multi-billion-shekel naval deals with the German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp.

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