Degel Menashe Board Weighs Options After Freund Forgery Ruling
(May 5) At a hastily convened meeting two days before Israel’s Independence Day, Degel Menashe’s board of directors heard a report on Tel Aviv district court judge Naftali Shilo’s ruling that Shavei Israel founder and chairman Michael Freund is guilty of forging his ex-wife's signature on numerous official documents. This was done, Judge Shilo implied, in an attempt to conceal the alleged embezzlement and transfer to Shavei of IS50 million ($15 million) of family money. [See our April 28 article, “Court Finds Freund, Shavei, Guilty of Forgery, Fraud.”] The money, for the return of which Freund and Shavei are currently being sued by Freund’s divorced wife Sarah Green, was given to the family by her father Pinchas Green, a wealthy American businessman.
Although the board reached no decisions, it unanimously agreed that strong action was called for. “We are still waiting to see the reaction to the court’s ruling of the government, and specifically, of the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption,” our Newsletter was told by Degel Menashe chairman Hillel Halkin, who presided over the meeting. “So far, I’m sorry to say, there’s been no reaction at all. I hope this is merely due to the fact that the recent days have not been full working ones. Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day may have slowed the Ministry’s ability to digest and process the case.”
Halkin believes the picture will soon become clearer. “I expect,” he said, “that we’ll know by the end of next week whether the Ministry intends to cut its ties with Shavei Israel or thinks it can go on with business as usual. If this is what it does think, it’s mistaken. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that a government body should even consider continuing to work with an organization and its leader that have been found guilty of criminal fraud. And this is especially so since the court’s findings comes on top of many previous disclosures of gross abuses and malfeasance on Shavei’s part.”
At its meeting, Halkin said, Degel Menashe’s board considered possible courses of public and legal action should the Ministry refuse to sever relations with Shavei. “There are various options,” he stated. “There was a consensus on the board that we need to examine each of them carefully. We’ll do that as quickly as we can. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Immigration can rest assured that, whatever we course we decide on, it won’t be able to get away with pretending that nothing has happened.”