Food importer Neto M.E. Holdings (TASE: NTO) chairman David Ezra will not be charged with criminal offenses on allegations that he was trying to smuggle cash totaling €475,000 overseas. The Israel Tax Authority has agreed to the request of Ezra's lawyer to impose financial sanctions on him instead of conducting criminal proceedings. The amount of the financial sanctions will be decided by the Committee for Imposing Financial Sanctions.
During an examination earlier this month by security staff of the Israel Airports Authority at Ben Gurion airport, Ezra was caught before leaving the country for Greece with €475,695 cash in a suitcase that he had put into the hold of the aircraft on a flight to Greece.
Ezra was questioned by the investigative unit, which said, "During questioning, he admitted that he knew of the obligation to declare taking money out of the country but he claimed that he did not declare the money because he did not know where to declare it when leaving the country." He added that, "the money was for paying building contractors who had worked on renovating a vacation home that he had bought in Corfu, Greece."
Asked about the source of the cash that was used to purchase foreign currency from moneychangers, Ezra claimed that he saved it up over recent years and withdrew cash from his private accounts.
In his request to be released Ezra said that he did not know any details about the moneychangers and did not present receipts or documents for purchasing the foreign currency.
Ezra has accumulated capital of more than NIS 700,000 in less than three years by selling shares and receiving huge dividends from Neto, although he remains the controlling shareholder in the food conglomerate. Neto Holdings is one of Israel's largest food manufacturers with a market cap of NIS 700 million and its subsidiary Neto Malinda (TASE: NTML), which conducts most of the group's food importing and manufacturing activities has a market cap of NIS 2.78 billion. Ezra himself still holds a 24% stake in the company.
In the court proceedings for his release, Ezra's attorney Adv. Yoav Sananes said, "Mr. Ezra has served as chairman of Neto Group for more than 40 years. Throughout that period he has worked with integrity and there has been no blemish on his conduct. He is fully cooperating with the authorities."
Adv. Sananes added, "It is important to strenuously clarify that the aforementioned money is money that Mr. Ezra has paid tax on according to the law and this is a technical offense and nothing more."
Presumption of innocence: It should be stressed that David Ezra is only a suspect and no indictment has been filed against him and he has the right to be presumed innocent
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 16, 2022.
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