Subsidized Apartment Sales Subject of Israeli Police Probe

Israeli police are probing possible corruption in the sale of subsidized apartments at a Jerusalem housing project.

The claims, raised in an Israel Television report this week, alleged that up to 40 percent of the Shuafat Ridge housing project, which had been built for needy fervently Orthodox families, was sold at subsidized prices to people who were not eligible to receive assistance.

Those who benefited included friends and relatives of the religious parties and organizations that marketed the project, the report said.

Labor and Social Welfare Minister Eli Yishai of the Shas Party, Yehuda Levinger, head of the National Religious Party’s Jerusalem branch, and relatives of Deputy Housing Minister Meir Porush of United Torah Judaism were implicated in the report.

The project in northern Jerusalem was begun under the tenure of Ariel Sharon as housing minister in the late 1980s with the view to alleviate the housing problems of fervently Orthodox families. Most of the construction and marketing was conducted between 1992-1996, when Binyamin Ben Eliezer served as housing minister under the Labor government.

The implicated members of the political parties denied any wrongdoing.

Yishai, who was reported to have purchased a four-room apartment for $110,000, and sold it last year for $210,000, without ever having lived in it, said he was told that people not eligible for assistance could also purchase houses.

The Housing Ministry spokesman said that additional housing was built that could be sold at non-subsidized prices, and that no eligible families had lost out because apartments were purchased by others.

Meretz leader Yossi Sarid said that the television report hinted at a “massive corruption” scandal. He also said he planned to lodge a criminal complaint on the matter.

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