Welfare minister reportedly target of IAI corruption probe
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Welfare minister reportedly target of IAI corruption probe

Police said to seek witnesses to turn against Haim Katz in investigation into Israel Aerospace Industries

Israeli Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Haim Katz arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem on September 27, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Israeli Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Haim Katz arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem on September 27, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Police are seeking witnesses to testify against Welfare Minister Haim Katz in the ongoing probe into corruption suspicions at Israel Aerospace Industries.

Cops are looking at those already questioned as part of the inquiry to see if they will offer evidence against the lawmaker, a former head of IAI’s labor union whose son was arrested as part of the probe last week, according to a Channel 2 report on Sunday.

Police have allegedly tried to get several suspects to open up, including Eli Cohen, one of the union heads and veterans of the organization, offering him a sweeter deal if he will testify against Katz.

Cohen, according to Channel 2, is the central suspect in the investigation, and “knows everything and is involved in everything.”

Cohen is the only suspect still in custody, and on Sunday his remand was extended by four days.

The remainder of the suspects, including Katz’s son Yair, were released to house arrest on Sunday.

Suspicions of corruption, fraud and breach of trust surrounding IAI became public earlier this month when police raided the defense contractor, arresting 14 people.

Yair Katz, son of Welfare Minister Haim Katz (Likud), at a remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, March 22, 2017. (Flash90)
Yair Katz, son of Welfare Minister Haim Katz (Likud), at a remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, March 22, 2017. (Flash90)

The labor union at IAI, which employs some 16,000 people and is Israel’s largest state-owned company, is seen as closely tied to Katz, a Likud lawmaker.

A court hearing last week confirmed for the first time reports that police were looking into allegations that employees at IAI who refused to register as members of the Likud party may have been systematically denied promotions or raises in salary, and in some cases were fired.

Channel 2 news reported last week that Katz, who served as head of the IAI labor union for over two decades before becoming a minister some two years ago, had been mentioned by some workers in testimony to police.

In a statement last week, Haim Katz said no such corrupt practices went on under his watch, and that there was a “witch hunt” under way to harm his reputation.

A spokesman for Katz declined a Times of Israel request to comment on the arrest of his son.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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