Eighty-three people, including four employees of the Population and Immigration Authority and residents of East Jerusalem, have recently been arrested on suspicion of being involved in a large-scale bribery affair involving illegal trade in appointments with the busy Population Authority Department in Wadi. Joz
in East Jerusalem, worth hundreds of thousands of sickles.
Six of the detainees are suspected of brokering and the remaining 73 are suspected of paying hundreds of shekels every time they were queued. They are charged with multiple bribery offenses, including breach of trust and money laundering. The detention of the four employees has been extended until Wednesday and the remainder has been released under restrictive conditions.
The arrests were made at the end of an undercover investigation that lasted four months and involved an undercover agent.
The investigation revealed a method that intermediaries used to to connect suspected Population Authority staff with dozens of residents of East Jerusalem who needed the services of the ministry, such as the issue of identity cards or travel permits, and could make arrangements without waiting time in exchange for monetary bribery.
During the wave of arrests, the police raided the homes of 23 key suspects, including the four employees and six real estate agents, and seized, among other things, luxury cars & tens of thousands of shekels in cash.
Approximately 350,000 inhabitants of East Jerusalem are assigned to the Wadi al-Joz branch, which leads to appointments being made months made in advance.
According to the police, in order to exhaust the patience of the residents and forcing them to take bribes, the brokers used a smartphone application My Visit – which was developed to facilitate the services in the establishment, thus they would buy appointments and then sell them.
One of the brokers reportedly made no less than 2,700 months of upcoming appointments.
The police gave an official answer explaining the mechanism behind the scheme.
"According to the suspicions, the suspects made use of the shortage of available arrangements and long waiting times at the branch office to collect bribes, in some cases services were provided to the applicants without physically visiting the branch or the required documents" , the statement concluded.
The Population and Immigration Authority also gave a reaction and refused to elaborate on the alleged violations.
"The case is initiated by police investigations and therefore we will not be able to respond," read the statement.