The state of Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE:AFIL), with huge debts, billions of shekels in losses, one debt settlement in the past and another looming, has not slowed the lifestyle of Lev Leviev, its controlling shareholder. The tycoon has purchased an enormous burial site in Jerusalem containing 100 burial plots, although it is not clear how much he paid and to whom, and how he made the purchase, according to a Channel 2 report.
The burial market in Israel totals NIS 500 million a year. According to a deal by the state with burial societies, the National Insurance Institute is supposed to pay for the burial of citizens, but the lack of burial space in Israel is forcing Israeli residents wishing to be buried in a conventional graveyard in Jerusalem, for example, to pay a fee according to a fixed rate established by law.
Channel 2 reports that Leviev paid $9,000 for the plot, something that the general public cannot do, even though the land belongs to everyone.
Under the Religious Services Law, every person can purchase a burial plot during his lifetime for himself, his spouse, and his parents. Documents obtained by Channel 2 show that Leviev, in cooperation with the community of Jewish immigrants to Israel from Bukhara, purchased 100 plots, and allegedly offered his family the option of being buried next to him. In order to carry out the deal, the burial society had to bypass the legal prohibition, and therefore commissioned a legal opinion in order to sidestep the law.
According to Channel 2, however, some of these plots are already registered in the name of people who had not yet been born when the deal took place, and some who have died and been buried elsewhere. Every attempt to obtain answers from the burial society or Leviev about how this could have happened, who was involved in the payment, and how it was made, has been unsuccessful.
The general burial society in Jerusalem said in response, "Hevra Kadisha (the burial society) operates legally, and does not examine the citizenship of a burial plot purchaser who declares that he is a foreign resident. By law, Hevra Kadisha requires that full particulars be attached to every name, but we are unable to check the veracity of these things, and we assume that the data given to us is correct and true. The buyer of every plot has provided full particulars about the owner of the designated plot. As for the question of who bought the burial plots and how the payments were made, for reasons of privacy, we do not disclose particulars about payments made by purchasers."
The Leviev group said in response, "They have gone too far. These accusations and conclusions are unscrupulous, false, malicious, and hateful, and have absolutely no connection to the truth. The stringent and modest criteria dictated by Hevra Kadisha applying to every plot on the site, which do not exist in many other place, apply without exception to all the graves on the site. Every action was coordinated with Hevra Kadisha in accordance with the regulations and instructions issued by the Hevra Kadisha itself, which to the best of our knowledge acted according to legal advice it received, and the proceeds and the purchases by the public that purchased plots on the site were made legally without anything improper.
"You have also chosen to ignore the controlling shareholder's huge losses on his investment in Africa-Israel and the way he chose to behave when, in an attempt to bring the company back to prosperity, he injected hundreds of millions of shekels of his own money in a manner absolutely unprecedented in Israel."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on May 4, 2017
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