Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90
Students taking their matriculation exams, May 25, 2010 (illustration)

Police on Monday morning detained 18 suspects, including senior officials in the Education Ministry, on suspicion of involvement in a huge hoax in which they pocketed more than 20 million shekel ($5.7 million). Police suspect that the detainees created a system of final papers reviews in which they inflated the number of participants and thus fraudulently increased their salaries.

The police released a statement saying that it will “continue to expose the improper actions of individuals who exploit their positions in government ministries to illegally extract funds from the state at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer.”

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The investigation began with covert operations last January, following internal control conducted by the Education Ministry, which raised suspicions of serious irregularities in the examination of final papers and led to filing a complaint with the police. The investigation raised suspicions of theft, fraudulently receiving benefits under aggravated circumstances, forgery, and false registration of corporate documents.

Police believe that the suspects created a system of checking final papers and other projects in Israeli high schools.. As part of this system, some of them demanded pay from an external company funded by the Education Ministry for checking numerous examinations, while at the same time collecting their regular salaries as ministry employees.

The investigation also revealed that other suspects declared an inflated number of exams they were checking, well above the norm for each work hour, thus receiving additional funds fraudulently.

The investigation has also raised suspicions that a number of suspects registered their relatives as an official test checkers, even though they had no relevant training or authorization. According to the police, these relatives pocketed hundreds of thousands of shekels using fraud and deception.

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