Rabbi Moshe Yosef, son of the late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, is suspected of tax evasion, after reportedly failing to pay taxes on some NIS 19 million (almost $5 million) in personal income in recent years.
Israel’s Tax Authority contacted Yosef last week to inform him of the outstanding debt, Channel 2 reported Sunday, and the authorities reportedly consider Yosef and his family to be tax evasion “tycoons.”
Yosef’s attorney Meir Mizrahi said the warning from the Tax Authority related to his client’s charitable loan foundation, and that his client was confident the complaint against him would eventually be dropped.
“According to the law, charities and charity-related activities are not taxed, and the tax authority has been aware of [the gemach’s] existence for many years,” he said.
Traditionally, a gemach refers to Jewish interest-free loan fund available to members of a Jewish community that are often set up with easy repayment terms.
Mizrahi said the authority was reviewing the financial records of the fund and and the details of Moshe Yosef’s income.
The Tax Authority’s interest in Moshe Yosef came amid a family feud between the late Shas spiritual leader’s 10 adult children over the inheritance of their late father’s property.
Ovadia Yosef died in October 2013 at the age of 93. His funeral in Jerusalem drew some 800,000 mourners, according to some reports, the largest in Israeli history.
Most of Yosef’s children have come out against Moshe, the youngest brother, to whom their father left nearly all his assets, estimated to be worth tens of millions of shekels.
In his will, a handwritten letter made public last year by Army Radio, Ovadia Yosef specified that his wishes must not be challenged, and that Moshe Yosef was free to do as he pleased with the inheritance.
However, the will did not mention the family home in Har Nof, and the dispute over the property reached the Jerusalem Family Court in March of last year.
According to reports at the time, the children agreed to sell the apartment, valued at NIS 10 million, and divide the money equally.
On Sunday, the ultra-Orthodox Kikar Hashabat news website said that three of the siblings announced they would not sign the agreement, claiming the other siblings intended to distribute the money unequally after the apartment was sold.
The unnamed sibling threatened to sue Moshe Yosef and urged him to re-discuss the terms of the sale through rabbinical mediators.