Israel’s richest woman questioned for hours in suspected Africa bribery case

Shari_Arison
US-Israeli billionaire and philanthropist Shari Arison

Israel’s richest woman, US-Israeli billionaire and philanthropist Shari Arison was questioned for 9 hours on Sunday on suspicion of involvement in a bribery case which investigators believe saw millions of dollars paid to government officials in African countries.

Along with Arison, investigators at the Lahav 433 national crime unit in Lod also questioned Efrat Peled who is CEO of Arison Investments.

Both women were released but prohibited from leaving the country or contacting anyone connected to the investigation

The investigation was reported earlier Sunday, but police only allowed publication of her name late Sunday.

The case involves Shikun & Binui, one of Israel’s largest construction and infrastructure companies, which has many projects in Israel and around the world. Six senior executives were arrested in February on suspicion of making the illicit payments to support construction projects in unnamed countries in Africa.

In addition the bribery concerns, Arison and Peeled are suspected of Securities Law offenses relating to business reports.

Last week, Arison sold her controlling stake in Shikun & Binui to US-Israeli real estate investor Naty Saidoff for NIS 1.1 billion ($307 million), a price some 14% lower than the stock value, which traders attributed to the bribery suspicions.

In a statement Arison Investments said that Arison and Peled are “fully cooperating” with investigators and are quite confident that “there is no flaw in their conduct.”

They hope, the statement continued, “that this will also be the conclusion of enforcement parties. Arison Investments has zero tolerance for any irregular behavior.”

Shikun & Binui has operations in real estate, infrastructure and renewable energy in Israel and abroad. As of end December 2017 it employed 9,673 workers, according to its website.

Arison Investments also holds a stake in Bank Hapoalim Ltd., one of the nation’s two largest banks.