Charge Vered Paid $6m in Bribes, Israel Officials Got ‘kick-backs’

Gahal and the Free Center faction announced today that they would present new motions of no confidence in the government to the Knesset tomorrow in connection with alleged scandals in the operations of the State-owned Vered water resources development company which has incurred major financial losses. A motion of no confidence by Gahal and other opposition factions on the Vered issue was decisively defeated by the Knesset last week.

Gahal leaders called a press conference today to charge that Vered had paid out some $6 million in bribes in order to secure contracts in Africa and elsewhere and that some of the money was “kicked-back” to Israeli officials by the recipients.

The new charges against the State-owned corporation were made by Aharon Goldstein, a Gahal member and a major building contractor. He said that he knew of other government or state corporation giving bribes in Africa and said that at least one private Israeli firm preferred to withdraw from Africa when it realized it might have to resort to bribes.

EVASIVE ON SUBJECT OF BRIBES

Dr. Yohanan Bader, Gahal’s economic spokesman, charged that Agriculture Minister Haim Gvati who is responsible for Vered, was evasive in his replies to questions during last week’s Knesset debate on the subject of bribes. Bader said that Gvati referred only to the fact that the State Comptroller’s report on Vered’s financial failure made no mention of bribes. The Comptroller’s report blamed the company’s difficulties solely on poor decisions by its management and absolved the government from any blame.

Bader said that not all of the $6 million was paid out in Africa and conceded that there were no receipts or other documents available to ascertain whether the full amounts were paid to the recipients of the alleged bribes. However, he said it should not be ruled out that some of the money stayed in the hands of the Israeli go-betweens. Simha Erlich of Gahal said his faction was urged by Gvati not to raise the bribe issue publicly because of the damage it could do to Israeli interests in Africa. “We refused to agree to the Minister’s plea.” Erlich said.

He charged that the Treasury’s foreign currency division had authorized the alleged bribe money in at least one case when the sum of $1 million was paid to a single person. Ehud Olmard, secretary of the Free Center faction said the issue of kick-backs to Israeli officials abroad was potentially far more serious than the bribes themselves.

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