Israel Police has begun investigating attorney Avi Lavi, who represented former president Moshe Katzav at one point, on suspicion of laundering $20 million. Lavi fled abroad in June after suspicions against him arose, and has not returned to Israel since.
The investigation, which is being carried out by Lahav 433, the police’s umbrella crime-fighting unit, is one branch of a global probe of allegations that a European crime ring headed by Israelis sold fake art works worth tens of millions of dollars, defrauded insurance companies and laundered money.
The investigators noticed that Lavi had cashed checks totaling roughly $20 million at the check-cashing establishments in Bnei Brak where the money received for the art works was laundered.
An undercover probe turned up several sources of large sums of money that were allegedly laundered: the ring selling the fake art works, a Haredi businessman and the court of Rabbi David Abuhatzeira of Nahariya. About two weeks ago police questioned Abuhatzeira’s son, Shlomi, in connection with the case.
In a raid on Lavi’s offices several months ago, police found a great deal of material, including documents related to the fake art works. Lavi’s name had been under a gag order until Sunday, when the court lifted the order.
Lavi’s attorneys, Roy Blecher and Moshe Mazor, told TheMarker yesterday: “Unfortunately, we cannot elaborate on the reasons why Mr. Lavi is abroad. He is cooperating with the relevant law-enforcement agencies through his attorneys. We hope that the conditions enabling his return to Israel will soon be created.”