Boaz Yona. Wanted (from Interpol website)
Tamar Yona
Liat Naim
Photo: Raanan Ben-Zur

'I called out his name and he turned around'

Chief Superintendent Dror Asraf, Israeli representative at Heftsiba CEO's arrest in Italy, tells Ynet, 'He was in complete shock and was trembling'. Some 45,000 euro in cash found in Boaz Yona's apartment. Meanwhile, people who broke into Heftsiba apartments find it difficult to calm down, even after arrest

"He was in complete shock and was trembling all over. He didn't understand how we found him," the Israeli representative at the arrest of Heftsiba CEO Boaz Yona in Italy told Ynet on Saturday morning.


According to Chief Superintendent Dror Asraf, he called out Yona's name in order to verify his identity, and after the fugitive turned around instinctively, he was arrested by police officers.


"He looked slightly different," Asraf said. "I immediately recognized him, but we still had some doubts. In light of the importance of the issue, I had to verify it, so I got out of the car and stood about 4 meters behind him and called out to him in Hebrew.


"He turned around and said, 'What?' That's when I knew this was the guy, and the Italian policemen carried out the arrest."


Yona, who fled Israel after his construction company collapsed and was hunted by the Israel Police and the Interpol, was caught in Italy on Thursday evening as he returned from a restaurant with his wife.


On Friday afternoon, the Milan police extended his remand by 10 days following a court hearing held without him in which a judge was presented with the relevant documents. Yona, who is being held at a detention center in Verona, will be transferred to Milan in the coming days, where he will remain in custody until he is extradited to Israel.


According to Asraf, "He did not try to escape when he was arrested. I told him, 'The game is over,' and he understood and asked to sit down and relax. We put him on a chair and he asked to take tranquilizers.


"He asked me to take care of his wellbeing and health, and that's what I did. The Italians are treating him in an exemplary manner, and they promised not to harm any of his rights or medical needs."


Asraf added that 45,000 euros (about $61,333) in cash were found in Yona's apartment, as well as different documents.


"This isn't the place to elaborate on what we know and how we reached him or what we found. We know a lot of things, and this is a puzzle being built over time," he said.


Yona's wife, Tamar, was released shortly after the arrest.


"His wife immediately said that their children were alone in another house. I spoke with people in Israel and received approval to release her and let her go to her kids. Yona was taken to the Verona police to fill out the relevant forms according to the Italian law.


"The National Fraud Investigation Unit is in charge of the investigation, and has so far done so in a dignified manner. I believe that they will look into the material and examine all the evidence, including regarding the wife, and will decided what to do."


The extradition procedure is expected to last up to 40 days.


"I don’t know when he will arrive in Israel. The Italians will dictate the pace, according to their laws and according to their procedures," Asraf said. "This was one of the most complicated police operations conducted recently… It was a work of art by the police here and I think the Israeli public should be proud."


Buyer: I hope he falls upon hard times

"I don't wish him death, but I hope he falls upon hard times, so he can feel what it is like taking plain people's money, leaving them homeless," Liat Naim, one of the hundreds of people who broke into an apartment purchased from the Heftisba construction company, told Ynet Friday following Yona's arrest.


Liat and her husband Oren bought an apartment at Heftsiba's project in Netanya. They were slated to receive the keys to the flat, for which they paid the entire sum, a day after the reports that the company planned to file for bankruptcy.


"We took loans from the banks, we took out funds from every saving scheme we had, we borrowed money from our family in order to buy the apartment, and suddenly they tell us that we won't get it."


Immediately after the scandal broke out, Liat decided not to wait and to invade the apartment with her five-year-old daughter Nes.


"We lived here on mattresses without food. The child also felt that something was wrong, because it's not normal to have guards at the entrance to the apartments and buildings. It was difficult both for us and for her."


Before the apartment was broken into, the construction company managed to block the entrance using a metal board welded to the door.


"They dismantled the doors and the faucets from the apartment so that we won't enter it, but we did not give up and stayed in the flat. In the meantime, we are here according to a court order which says that the invaders cannot be evacuated," Liat said.

Boaz Yona after his arrest (photo courtesy of Channel 2)


"I don’t feel sorry for Boaz. He should pay the price for what he did to us and to all those who bought apartments, paid the money and suddenly have nothing."


Liat added that the arrest did not add to the buyers' feeling of uncertainty, but that she felt no empathy toward the Yona family's distress.


"I don't pity his wife either. Instead of staying in Israel and trying to help the poor families, she ran away with him and lied that she did not know where he was. How can one feel sorry for such people, who caused uncertainty and trauma? How can one take money from plain people and run away with it? It serves him right that he was caught and I hope he pays the price."


Promises left without guarantees

Eran Biton, another disappointed Heftsiba customer, is a neighbor of the Naim family. Although Biton received the key to his apartment before the scandal broke out, he is still living in uncertainty.


"We are in a situation of helplessness. We don’t know what will happen. Although my family received the key, we still don’t know what will happen with the repairs the company has to do this year."

'Trespassers' apartment in Netanya (Photo: Raanan Ben-Zur)


Biton said that the apartment had yet to be officially registered under his name.


"The public areas are also not ready yet despite the contractor's promises. There is no gym, no children's yard, despite the company's promises. In addition, the building next to us, which belongs to the same project, has not been completed, and they told us that we may have to pay for its construction."


Also Biton does not feel sorry for Boaz Yona or his wife, saying that they must be punished severely.


"The people living in the buildings are tenants of high quality, but apparently he still managed to deceive us. His wife said in an interview that the company had been in trouble for two to three years now. If that was the case, why did he launch new projects and why did he collect money from buyers when he knew that the company was in trouble," he asked.


Biton added that he was not happy living in his new apartment, following the events.


"We hardly got any of the promises they gave us when we purchased the apartment. We don’t know what will happen now. It's hard to see him paying back the money and feeling sorry for him. We don’t pity him."


Raanan Ben-Zur and Efrat Weiss contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 09.01.07, 09:02
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