Police questioned Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz for a third time on Thursday, as a suspect in a corruption probe into state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.
Katz, former chairman of the National Workers Union of IAI, was questioned for less than an hour at the Lahav 433 anti-corruption police unit headquarters in Lod.
He is a suspect in two cases:
• The first concerns Katz allegedly extorting IAI employees to vote for certain people in the union’s workers committee elections, and to join the Likud in order to vote for Katz in the party’s primary elections. Police collected testimonies of employees who described how Katz allegedly “terrorized them,” to make them join the party and increase his power in the Likud central committee.
• The second case is about the minister’s son Yair, and renovations in his personal dwelling. According to reports, a contractor who had won an IAI tender for another project also renovated Yair Katz’s home and assisted with architectural procedures. Investigators suspect Yair Katz received a discount on the renovation, and that the contractor was awarded the IAI tender in an unlawful manner.
Haim Katz is expected to provide the bills for the renovation and prove that he paid for them. Regarding Katz’s actions to persuade IAI employees to join the Likud, associates claim that this was legitimate. They add that it is common for large organizations to do so in order to build influence in the political sphere and among national decision-makers.
Katz was questioned for the first time on July 3, three months after the police turned to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to receive permission to open an investigation against the minister, and then again on July 6.
The IAI investigation became public after 13 people were arrested on March 15, on suspicion of corruption including aggravated fraud, money laundering, theft by a public servant, fraud and breach of trust. Retired IDF Brig.-Gen. Amal Asad was among those arrested, on suspicions of receiving bribes from businessmen at technology company DruzeNet to further the company’s interests with IAI. Asad denies any wrongdoing.
Yair Katz was arrested on March 22, on suspicion of granting benefits to IAI employees in exchange for their joining the Likud party.
Attorney Illan Bombach, who represents Yair Katz, told The Jerusalem Post in March that his client denied the allegations against him and was cooperating fully with the police.