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Alcohol Importer's Woes Could Mean a 'Dry' Israel

The largest importer, and for many brands the sole importer, of alcohol into Israel, is broke - and the country could soon be 'dry'.
By David Lev
First Publish: 10/20/2013, 5:06 PM

Illustration: Alcohol
Illustration: Alcohol
Flash90

Israel could soon become “dry,” in the Prohibition sense of the word. Not because of any new Knesset laws against selling alcohol – but because the largest importer, and for many brands the sole importer of alcohol, is broke.

The company, called “The Scottish,” owes lots of money to suppliers, financial institutions, and employees. The company owes about NIS 12 million to various banks (Discount, Mizrahi-Tefahot, Hapoalim), as well as to workers, many of whom have not been paid in recent months and who are overdue by NIS 2.1 million, union officials said. In addition, the company owes about NIS 15 million to the government, for duties and taxes collected but not yet paid.

All told, The Scottish owes its creditors about NIS 30 million, but has only NIS 5.5 million on hand. It is owed NIS 8 million from customers, many of whom have stopped paying due in part to rumors that the company may have to file for liquidation.

The Scottish is already under bankruptcy protection, with a court-appointed manager trying to help the company pay off its debts. A year later, the company owes more than ever, and several banks have demanded that the court appoint a liquidator. If the company is liquidated, Israelis' main funnel for scotch, vodka, liqueurs, and many wines and foreign beers will shut down, at least until a new importer can be found. At that point, the only way many Israelis will be able to get their favorite brands will be at the duty free shop at Ben Gurion Airport – assuming, of course, they are flying abroad.

Judge Eitan Orenstein of the Tel Aviv Bankruptcy Court said he would make a decision on the fate of The Scottish at a later date.