Former soccer player accused of bribing deputy Tel Aviv mayor

Police recommend charging Haim Revivo, who denies wrongdoing; suspicions emerged from sprawling investigation into Likud MK David Bitan

Haim Revivo seen at a press conference for the new soccer league season in the Jerusalem municipality on July 31, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Haim Revivo seen at a press conference for the new soccer league season in the Jerusalem municipality on July 31, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police on Thursday recommended bribery charges against a former top Israeli soccer player, accusing him of offering money to a deputy mayor of Tel Aviv in exchange for permits for construction work on a property that he owns in the coastal city.

Investigators suspect that Haim Revivo, who during the 1990s played on Israel’s national soccer team, gave NIS 10,000 ($2,760) to Arnon Giladi when he was deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, Hebrew media reported.

The suspicions against Revivo emerged during a far-reaching corruption investigation into Likud MK and former coalition chairman David Bitan. Investigators suspect the money was paid into a non-profit organization linked to Giladi in return for the municipal building permits.

The police recommendations are not legally binding and prosecutors will now weigh whether to pursue an indictment.

Revivo, in a statement, denied any wrongdoing.

“I have never committed a criminal offense, and I trust the professionalism and integrity of the State Prosecutor’s Office,” he said. “I’m not worried at all.”

“I gave the police a full and detailed version with all the facts and I answered all the questions. I am certain and convinced that the State Prosecutor’s Office will review the facts and the version I have given and will reach a different conclusion.”

Likud MK David Bitan leaves the Lahav 433 headquarters after questioning by police on September 16, 2018. (Flash 90)

Police on Thursday recommended Bitan be indicted on multiple corruption charges including bribery, fraud and money laundering. They also recommended charges against Giladi and against Ha’uman 17 nightclub owner Ruben Lublin on suspicion that he bribed Giladi in order to receive permits for business interests he has in Tel Aviv. The money was allegedly dispensed through the same non-profit organization.

In a statement, police said their two-year investigation has yielded sufficient evidence to charge Bitan, a key ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with accepting money in exchange for political favors while he served as MK and as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion.

Among other alleged backhanders, investigators said they uncovered evidence that Bitan and Giladi accepted a bribe of NIS 385,000 ($106,000) to secure building permits for three real estate projects in Tel Aviv. Police said some of the bribe money was transferred to Bitan using fake invoices.

The investigation, dubbed Case 1803, has seen the arrests of a number of suspects, including Rishon Lezion city officials, local businessmen, and organized crime figures.

Bitan has denied any wrongdoing. He is 24th on the Likud party’s list for April’s elections, and with the ruling party projected to win around 30 seats, he is expected to keep his Knesset seat.

Bitan, 58, stepped down from his role as coalition whip in 2017 after police announced they were investigating him for corruption. He has remained in the Knesset as a Likud lawmaker.

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