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The Multimillion Dollar Panama Channel to West Bank Settlements

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Silwan neighborhood..

The Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Image by Uri Blau. Israel, 2015.

The departure point was Panama. In recent years, tens of millions of shekels left there, taking a questionable route until they landed in the coffers of Amana, which builds homes in West Bank settlements and outposts. Along the way, the money went via a mysterious Argentinian tycoon, a fictitious address in New York, and a nonprofit organization controlled with a strong hand by Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever, the secretary-general of Amana.

All of this happened at a time when Amana had run into financial problems, and the money from the other side of the globe assisted it in continuing to put down stakes in the West Bank, beyond Israel’s Green Line.

The information about the conduct of the nonprofit controlled by Hever–an organization called “Hakeren letipuah hara’ayon hazioni” (“The Fund for Nurturing the Zionist Idea,” or FNZI) – was provided to the registrar of nonprofit organizations at the Israeli Justice Ministry in October 2014, more than 18 months ago.

In his investigation into the matter, the registrar confirmed findings that raised questions regarding the fund’s activities, the source of its capital, and money transfers to and from the fund. However, even after 20 months of investigation, the registrar’s report, obtained by Haaretz, shows that, for the time being, he doesn’t intend to impose any kind of sanctions against the nonprofit, nor pass along material for further examination by other authorities.

The Haaretz investigation has uncovered details regarding the conduct of the nonprofit that, for some reason, didn’t set off alarm bells at the office of the Registrar of Nonprofits. One of them relates to an obscure philanthropist by the name of Diego Alfredo Marynberg, a Jewish businessman of Argentinian origin who had control of a company that channeled tens of millions of shekels from Panama to FNZI, and from there to right-wing movements and other organizations controlled by Hever.

The investigation followed the trail of the circuitous money transfers from the nonprofits to Hever’s companies, this despite the rules only allowing nonprofits to transfer funds to entities that are not-for-profit. In addition, nonprofits (“amutot” in Hebrew) are required to report on all their operations. But the money transfers between the nonprofit and Amana were not included in the financial report that the fund filed with the registrar of nonprofits in 2013.

To read the full story in Haaretz (paywall protected) click here.