A former associate of Likud MK David Bitan is reportedly about to sign a plea deal admitting to brokering bribes between businessmen and the lawmaker, having refused to turn state’s witness.
Moshe Yosef, a Rishon Lezion businessman, is set to admit that he acted as a go-between, transferring sums of money to the lawmaker, Hadashot TV news reported. Bitan denies any wrongdoing in the affair.
At the same time, Yosef, whom Hadashot referred to as “Bitan’s treasurer,” is refusing to testify directly against the lawmaker, the report said. Yosef was released to house arrest on Friday.
According to Israeli law, one who gives or handles a bribe receives a sentence only half the length of the recipient of the bribe. Under the emerging deal, Yosef would be sentenced to a year and a half behind bars, the report said.
Bitan is being investigated over suspicions he took bribes in exchange for political favors as deputy mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb Rishon Lezion. Channel 10 news reported on Sunday that police suspect the bribery schemes may have continued even after he entered the Knesset in 2015 and was appointed coalition whip.
According to the report, Dror Glazer, a real estate developer, who has been questioned by police and may make a deal to turn state’s witness, is suspected of transferring NIS 150,000 ($43,000) through Yosef in exchange for Bitan advancing legislation that would benefit Glazer.
The investigation, dubbed by police “Case 1803,” has seen the arrests of dozens of suspects, including Rishon Lezion’s mayor and other city officials, local businessmen, and organized crime figures. Bitan stepped down as coalition whip shortly after news of the investigation broke.
Police have examined files at Yosef’s furniture store, which investigators believe was used as a front for money laundering.
When the probe into Bitan began, officers set up hidden cameras and recording devices in the store, and, based on the evidence they collected, built up a strong case against him, according to leaks from the investigation.
Police footage from the cameras reportedly showed Bitan counting large sums of money and appearing to use the store as a bank to withdraw cash. Officers were also said to have secretly filmed Bitan’s wife leaving Yosef’s store while carrying an envelope investigators believe was stuffed with cash.
The clips also allegedly showed Bitan warmly greeting Husam Jarushi, a member of what police consider to be one of the most powerful, and violent, of Israel’s crime families.
Following a five-hour interrogation session with police Sunday, during which Bitan chose to remain silent, investigators have reportedly postponed another interrogation initially scheduled for Tuesday.
On Monday in the Knesset, Bitan was welcomed with a full half-minute of applause from his colleagues at the weekly Likud faction meeting.
רק בליכוד – חצי דקה מחיאות כפיים סוערות לדוד ביטן pic.twitter.com/c3l2qLA1J4
— מיכאל שמש (@shemeshmicha) December 25, 2017