Police Arrest 20 Top Balad Officials on Corruption, Money Laundering Charges

YERUSHALAYIM -
Leader of the Joint Arab List Ayman Odeh (R) with MK Jamal Zahalka, who has declared his intention to join the Gaza flotilla. (`Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Leader of the Joint Arab List Ayman Odeh (R.) with MK Jamal Zahalka. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police on Sunday morning announced that they had arrested more than 20 suspects in a huge money-laundering scheme allegedly run by officials of the Arab Balad party, now a member of the United Arab List. The list of detainees includes prominent members of Galilee Arab communities, including lawyers, accountants and local authority officials.

Further arrests are suspected, although police did not say whether those arrests would include any of the Balad MKs – Jamal Zahalka, Basel Ghattas or Hanin Zoabi. Police raided the offices of the party in several cities early Sunday, seizing documents, computers and other evidence.

According to police, the scheme involved raising money for the party from undocumented sources in Israel and abroad. The money was deposited into numerous bank accounts associated with some of the detainees, with false documentation and paperwork designed to avoid regulations and laws. “The scheme was designed to raise millions of shekels for the party and avoid regulatory authorities, both in Israel and abroad. The money was reported, when such reporting took place, as coming from individual donors” who had never donated money to the party.

Police said that the detainees would be held for 24 hours, and that a decision would be made in each individual case on whether or not to ask for an extension of their remand.