JERUSALEM (Jan. 14)
Seventeen West Bank Arabs, some of them local officials, were arrested yesterday in connection with a major land sales fraud now before the Israeli courts. One of the detainees is reportedly implicated in the murder of Arab land dealer Ahmad Odde, a prosecution witness in the trial underway at the Tel Aviv District Court.
The arrests followed six months of police investigation which produced evidence that the suspects were involved in the illegal acquisition of land in the territory to sell to Jewish contractors. Two former aides of Deputy Defense Minister Michael Dekel, a Likud politician, were arrested last month for allegedly taking bribes to furnish forged documents aimed at defrauding land buyers.
Among those arrested yesterday were three Arab policemen, two mukhtars (village leaders), a clerk at the Kalkilya court, a notary public and local land dealers.
Ten West Bank Arabs arrested six months ago were convicted and sentenced on bribery charges in connection with illegal land sales. They included several local judges and lawyers. Their trial led to the police investigation that exposed the latest land fraud scandal.