Police Arrest East Jerusalem Gov’t Officials For Demanding Bribes for Appointments
The suspects reserved 1000s of appointment slots months in advance, and when residents needed services, they agreed to sell them the appointments for hundreds of shekels.
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The Israeli police arrested four employees of the Population and Immigration Authority office in Wadi Joz for East Jerusalem residents on suspicion of taking bribes estimated in the tens of thousands of shekels. Six others were interrogated for allegedly being go-betweens and the remaining 73 for giving bribes. The four workers issued identity cards, passports, transit documents and other matters.
The four were arrested following a 4-month undercover police investigation accompanied by the State Prosecutor's Office. The police operated an undercover agent who worked among the ministry's employees and revealed their methods.
The office in Wadi Joz was long known for crowding and 4-month waits, partly because it was designated for the 350,000 residents of East Jerusalem.
The workers, aged 21-29, from East Jerusalem, operated six non-office machers aged 20-46 from East Jerusalem who utilized the queues and long waiting times to collect bribes to provide immediate services without waiting. In some cases, they even provided population services without access to the branch and the documents required for the service.
The method involved machers contacting residents who wished to receive services, and offered them an immediate and specific service by one of the ministry's employees for a bribe. The details of the person were transferred to one of the four suspected office workers who contacted him and instructed him when to arrive and whom to contact in order to receive the requested service without waiting.
Police investigators also uncovered that turns for receiving Population Authority services by bribes utilized the designated MyVisit application developed by the government to make it easier for all residents to receive services. The police’s suspicions were aroused when the employees reserved a huge number of turns for themselves. This created a bottleneck for local residents who needed services and had lengthier waits because the workers had taken many of the reservations for themselves.
When the citizens would express their frustration with the long wait, the four suspects would turn to them by various methods and offer them immediate service for the cost of hundreds of shekels per person.
Thus, for example, one of the suspects in the affair reserved 2700 slots several months in advance and sold them. In this way he pocketed tens of thousands of shekels.
The covert police investigation led the police to form an unprecedented arrest operation, in which the East Jerusalem suspects were brought in for suspicion of demanding bribes, bribery go-between, giving bribes, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.
During the raid, the police seized cash in the amount of tens of thousands of shekels and six vehicles, including luxury cars, which are suspected of being purchased with bribe money. The police have yet to decide whether to initiate the process for their forfeiture.
This scandal follows a similar scandal that occurred in the north Galilee in June when police arrested 23 suspects on suspicion of bribery, breach of trust, extortion threats, theft by public officials, money laundering, planning and building offenses, and income tax evasion.
The chairman of Israeli Shortcut, Mr. Zeev Zar, says that government efforts to improve services for the public have had a noticeable effect in recent years, and police action to remove corrupt officials is an important part of ensuring that the situation will not revert to the well known bureaucratic nightmare of the past.