Bribery and corruption scandal hits Israel elite

Israeli police are questioning a number of top tax officials in the country's latest major fraud scandal, in which a senior aide to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is a suspect.

Israeli police are questioning a number of top tax officials in the country's latest major fraud scandal, in which a senior aide to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is a suspect.

The director of the Israel Tax Authority, Jacky Matza, and Olmert aide Shula Zaken were taken in for questioning on suspicion that they gave tax breaks and appointed people to senior positions with the authority in return for bribes.

About 20 other senior officials and businessmen were questioned after a large-scale police raid on Monday night that followed a four-month-long undercover investigation code-named "Open Card", police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

A Tel Aviv court on Monday night extended the remand of 14 of the detainees.

Matza was remanded in custody for five days and his predecessor Eitan Rub, who headed the tax authority until a year ago, was remanded for three days. Olmert's aide was put under 10 days of house arrest.

Police stressed that Olmert was not a suspect in the scandal, only his office's director.

Zaken was suspected of facilitating bribery and influencing appointments in the tax authority.

"We are talking about bribery, blackmail, and fraud [involving] elements of the tax authority, senior businessmen and the director of the prime minister's office, Rosenfeld said. - Sapa-DPA

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