Bankrupt Tel Aviv Museum is Raided, but the ‘thieves’ Are Tax Collectors

Bailiffs raided the Tel Aviv Museum on Sunday, seizing property as security against nearly $1 million in unpaid taxes.

The institution is bankrupt, with a deficit of $2.5 million. Its bank account was frozen by the tax authorities last week and a lien was placed on the building.

Treasury sources said that museum officials may be investigated for criminal liability. Taxes deducted from workers’ paychecks apparently were not turned over to the tax authorities.

For that reason, five bailiffs from the Tel Aviv court descended on the museum early Sunday morning, accompanied by police.

They intended to confiscate 100 paintings to be held as collateral against back taxes. But lacking a specific court order to seize works of arts, they carted away instead a video, televisions, typewriters and other office equipment.

A recovery plan worked out by the museum’s directors would close several departments and dismiss about 30 percent of the staff.

The workers committee has countered with a proposal to fire the museum director, Mark Scheps, and to have employees take over duties currently performed by outside contractors.

Mayor Shlomo Lehat has assured Tel Aviv’s City Council he will not allow the museum to close. But local officials say the municipality will not make funds available for a rescue operation.

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