British embassy in Israel stung for £1m

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The scale of the scam, which cost the Tel Aviv embassy at least £790,000, is revealed in a report by the official spending watchdog released last week. The National Audit Office report also reveals that the Foreign Office has given up hope of recovering hundreds of thousands of pounds in fraudulently-inflated bonus payments paid to local staff.

Avishai Yechieli, a driver who had worked for the embassy since 1987 was so trusted by British diplomats that he acted as an intermediary with the local body calculating the annual bonuses that must be paid to all Israeli employees.

But instead of giving the embassy the official figures, he forged documents setting out much higher rates, which were paid to more than 250 local staff year after year. His altruistic but criminal redistribution of UK taxpayers' cash won him the predictable soubriquet of Robin Hood in the Israeli press - but he pocketed significant sums for himself.

Fraud investigators were dispatched from London two years ago when a senior diplomat became suspicious. They established the 52-year-old driver had been ripping off the embassy for at least four years. He confessed to police, and is on trial in Israel.