Charges Likely in Travel Agencies’ Auschwitz School Trip Cartel

YERUSHALAYIM -
View of the Auschwitz death camp. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

Charges are likely to be filed against several large tour agencies for overcharging students and essentially running a cartel for school trips to Poland. The heads of travel agencies targeted in the investigation by the Finance Ministry’s Antitrust Commission and State Prosecutor’s Office have been invited to a hearing to discuss the charges. Pending that discussion, officials said charges would likely be filed.

Among the rites of passage for students in state high schools in Israel is a senior trip to Poland, where students visit the concentration camps and former Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. The trips, usually five to seven days long, are serious affairs — both for the students and their parents, who often have to make special arrangements with their banks to pay what can be a steep cost for those trips.

After a lengthy investigation, police believe they have enough evidence to charge the three companies that have contracts with the Education Ministry to run the trips with charges of price fixing and collusion. According to police, the companies allegedly divided the market between themselves and engaged in a non-interference pact, so they did not face competition on prices and terms. Fourteen individuals, employees of four travel agencies, are being investigated for trips that were sold to schools between 2010 and 2016.

Officials told Yisrael Hayom that the matter has been under investigation for several years, with the investigation accelerated in January 2016. Over 100 witnesses have already testified in the case, and over 60 crates of evidence have been collected, the officials said.