Members of the Tel Aviv Merchant's Organization were shocked to discover that membership checks they wrote to the organization in recent weeks were deposited not in the organization's account, but in the account of a Palestinian bank. At least a dozen members of the group said that checks they wrote to the organization in May and June were deposited in the “Bank of Palestine” in the village of Salfit, near Ariel.
Several of the members said they discovered the problem only when they received phone calls from heads of the organization, who asked them when they were going to pay their biennial dues. The confused merchants said that they had written the checks, sent them to the correct address, and recorded them as cashed. It was only after their own banks investigated that it was discovered that the money had made its way to PA banks.
Several of the checks were also stamped with “for depositor only,” which means they cannot be signed and cashed by a third party; a bank that allows deposits of such marked checks by third parties can be fined by the government and sued by customers.
The affected banks and customers have filed a complaint with police, who will investigate how the checks ended up in a PA bank. Police believe that the checks may have been stolen from a mailbox, but they are not ruling out the possibility of an “inside job.”
In response, Israel Discount Bank, one of the affected institutions, said that it had discussed the matter with its customers and recommended that they file a police complaint. Bank Hapoalim said that it supplied customers with a wide variety of fund transfer options, so they did not need to rely on the mail to send checks.