A Yedioth Ahronoth investigation published Sunday reveals that a $10,000 donation was transferred to Kadima MK Shlomo Molla's bank account by an American messianic organization promoting Jewish belief in Jesus that asked that the money be distributed among needy people in the Ethiopian immigrant community. However, MK Molla reportedly kept the money in his account and did not distribute it to anyone.
After questions were raised by the American philanthropists and after the findings of the investigation were revealed, MK Molla claimed that the money is still in his possession and that he plans on returning it to the donors by the end of the month. Molla announced on Sunday night, the evening before the report was to be published, that he had returned the money on Sunday.
The investigation led by Yuval Karni and Tzach Shpitzan reveals that the MK turned to the organization Jewish Voice, based in Phoenix, Arizona, and asked for help in order to cover the debt left over from his primaries campaign. The organization reportedly agreed to transfer him $17,000 stipulating that $7,000 be used to cover his campaign expenses and that $10,000 be distributed as a donation to needy Ethiopians.
The money was deposited in Molla's private bank account on May 6, 2009 at the First International Bank branch in Netanaya. He used the money to cover his campaign debt, but puzzlingly also kept the money earmarked as a donation to the needy. Molla also hid from the state comptroller that he received a large personal donation.
When the Yedioth Ahronoth correspondents asked MK Molla about the money, he handed them a copy of a letter he allegedly sent to the president of the Jewish Voice in which asked for advice regarding the date on which it would be possible to wire the money to a fund helping the Ethiopian community. According to MK Molla, the letter was sent on August 1, but the donors claim they received it only on October 4 at 2:04 am, just a few hours after Yedioth Ahronoth contacted Molla on the issue.
This raised suspicions that MK Molla gave Yedioth Ahronoth a fictitious letter in order to prove that he was supposedly awaiting instructions from the donors on how to handle the money.
Molla said in response: "The amount was given to me in trust to be transferred to an assistance fund for new immigrants from Ethiopia according to the criteria said to be set by the president of the organization, Jonathan Bernis, by the end of October… In telephone conversations and written correspondences over the past month, it was agreed that if the criteria were not stipulated by this time, the money would be returned to him."
The organization denied Molla's claim that it asked that a permanent fund be established for the donation. In response to Ynet's question whether he is concerned the affair will reach legal proceedings, he said, "From my perspective, this issue is done with. I am not concerned that it will turn into a criminal issue. The money has been returned and from here on in the story is finished."