Netanyahu aide gets rich on Mekorot-Mexico deal

Natan Eshel mediated a deal for Mekorot to decontaminate Mexican aquifers.

Natan Eshel could rake in millions of shekels on a massive deal he mediated for Mekorot National Water Company with Mexico's National Water Commission, La Conagua, to purify contaminated water sources. The deal could be worth hundreds of millions of shekels.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Eshel, a former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mediated between Mekorot and La Conagua, run by director general David Korenfeld Federman. The usual mediation fee on deals of this kind is 5-8% of the total.

Eshel declined to comment on the report, saying that he did not disclose details about his private affairs. He went into business in early 2012, after being forced to quit the Prime Minister's Bureau because of an embarrassing incident. He is considered very close to Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, and reportedly continues to help her and the prime minister in various ways, most recently in the election for president.

Mekorot signed an agreement with Mexico's Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources during President Shimon Peres's visit to Mexico in November 2013. Mekorot CEO Shimon Ben-Hamo and Korenfeld Federman signed the agreement to rehabilitate Mexico's groundwater sources. The agreement was called "historic" because it is one of Mekorot's largest agreements in years.

Under the agreement, the project's first stage will be a survey of aquifers and recommendations to purify them, at a cost of NIS 20 million. The second stage will be pilots to prove the purification processes, after which the water treatment facilities will be built. Mekorot will discover the causes of contamination at ten selected aquifers, determine whether the contamination is reversible, and recommend a decontamination strategy. Mekorot experts will also be asked to determine if, after the strategy is implemented, it will be possible to consume the water, or if it will require purification.

The ambitious program is based on ten aquifers which have been contaminated for a variety of reasons, including saltwater intrusion, inorganic substances from human activity, overloading of treated wastewater, seepage of pesticides in agricultural areas, oil and petrochemicals seepage in strategic gas producing areas.

Mekorot said in response, "The company, which is authorized by the government to carry out water projects worldwide, allows activity by agents in the field through a subsidiary, similar to the practice of other industries overseas, including the defense industry, and pursuant to standard and accepted contracts in this kind of activity."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 25, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

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