Tax prosecutors on Tuesday said they would file charges, pending a hearing, against a former deputy mayor of Tel Aviv and a former soccer star in connection with alleged bribery involving real estate projects in the city.
Arnon Giladi, an ex-deputy mayor, is suspected of accepting a bribe, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust and obstructing justice. Haim Revivo, who during the 1990s played on Israel’s national soccer team, is suspected of giving an NIS 10,000 ($2,870) bribe to Giladi when the latter was deputy mayor of Tel Aviv.
Another suspect, Likud activist Yosef Raanan, will also face money laundering charges, pending a hearing, prosecutors said.
The indictments are part of a wide-reaching corruption probe dubbed Case 1803, which has ensnared municipal officials from Rishon Lezion, local businessmen and organized crime figures.
Likud MK David Bitan, who previously was deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion, has also been charged in the case.
According to the indictment, Giladi asked for money from three real estate developers in return for advancing their projects in the municipal planning committees. He allegedly told the developers that the money was needed for a nonprofit organization that was helping residents of south Tel Aviv in their campaign against the housing of illegal migrants in their neighborhoods — but there was no such charity.
Raanan is suspected of helping Giladi by collecting NIS 30,000 ($8,610), which was deposited in a bank account. The two are also suspected of trying to hide the fact that the account was controlled by Giladi, who allegedly used the funds to advance his political career.
Giladi, a member of the Likud party, has been a Tel Aviv city council member since 2003. He was acquainted with lawmaker Bitan, who for years served on the Rishon Lezion city council.
Prosecutors allege that in 2015-2017, Giladi pushed real estate projects in Tel Aviv at the request of Bitan and a developer, whose identity is protected under a gag order. This occurred “while Giladi was in a serious conflict of interest,” according to the indictment.
Attorneys representing Bitan released a statement saying he had no connection to the specific suspicions against Giladi, Revivo and Raanan and that they did not appear in the indictment against him. They also denied Bitan had ever accepted any money or benefits in return for actions he took in his roles as a civil servant.
Bitan, 58, is accused of receiving NIS 992,000 ($287,000) in bribes while serving as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion and as a Knesset member.
A loyal ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bitan 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.
In January, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he would file an indictment against Bitan, pending a hearing, for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as money laundering and tax offenses.
The case is not connected to Netanyahu’s own corruption trial in which he is accused of fraud and breach of trust in three cases, as well as bribery in one of the cases.