Israel’s richest woman charged with fraud, bribery

May 28, 2019 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Billionaire Shari Arison and several executives have been charged by the police with an elaborate bribery and fraud scheme to win contracts in Kenya.

Sharri Arison

The police announced Monday that the Lahav 443 Unit, which deals with fraud investigations, and the Israel Securities Authority have completed the probe into Case 1445, which deals with the suspicions of the transfer of bribery payments to foreign public employees in various African countries, and in Kenya in particular, by Shikun & Binui Ltd., previously owned by Arison.

The company paid the bribes directly or through other companies, including via AG SBI International, a Swiss private company owned by Shikun & Binui Ltd.

The police suspect that between 2008 and 2016, Shikun & Binui Ltd. paid bribes to foreign public employees in Africa in an organized fashion, in order to increase the company’s profits.

The investigation began in February 2018, when senior employees of Shikun & Binui, both previous and present employees, were detained while the police searched offices, and seized documents and computer materials.

The police noted that the investigation was extensive and complex and involved hundreds of investigative activities in Israel and around the world.

A total of 50 suspects were questioned and testimonies of 34 witnesses were taken. Parallel to the open investigation, the Anti-Corruption Unit in Kenya (EACC) and the Israel Police conducted two investigations which culminated with arrests in Nairobi and the questioning of 19 Kenyan public workers.

According to the evidence collected, in Kenya alone in which the investigation focused, bribes totaling tens of millions of shekels were paid, which generated jobs and benefits worth hundreds of millions of shekels.

The total sum that had been illegally connected to the investigation amounted to NIS 420 million.

Upon completion of the investigation, the Police concluded that there is substantial evidence against a number of senior workers for offenses involving the bribery of a foreign public worker, falsification of corporate documents, conspiracy to commit a crime, disruption of legal proceedings, breaching of the prohibition of money laundering, and misleading reporting with the aim of misleading a reasonable investor under the Securities Law.

The investigation file will be forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for review and a final decision, the police concluded.

Arison sold her controlling interest in Shikun & Binui last year after 22 years of ownership, possibly as a way to shake off the liability, some analysts said.

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