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Hadera mayor indicted on corruption charges over ties to contractor

Zvi Gendelman accused of bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice for advancing interests of Sammy Levy, a real estate developer who backed his election campaign

Hadera Mayor Zvi Gendelman arrives for extension of his remand at the Magistrate's Court in Rishon Letzion, June 4, 2018. (Flash90)
Hadera Mayor Zvi Gendelman arrives for extension of his remand at the Magistrate's Court in Rishon Letzion, June 4, 2018. (Flash90)

Prosecutors filed an indictment Tuesday against Hadera Mayor Zvi Gendelman on a string of corruption charges including bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice.

Gendelman was also charged with breach of trust and computer crimes.

Alongside the indictment, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit filed a request with a municipal mayors’ oversight committee to suspend Gendelman from his position as mayor of the northern coastal city.

According to the indictment, after being elected as mayor in 2013, Gendelman did not report his conflict of interest relating to real estate developer Sammy Levy, a past senior municipal official, who backed Gendelman when he ran for mayor.

Gendelman was accused of using his position as mayor to help Levy — a former acting head of the municipality — in his business dealings in exchange for Levy’s backing in his campaign for office. The two men did not report their ties to authorities as required by election law

Gendelman was head of the local planning committee from 2013 until a police investigation into his dealings started in 2018. During that period he did not recuse himself from participating in debates about matters relating to Levy, including a decision to approve an irregular permit for a Levy-owned company to undertake construction work in an office building in the city.

Prosecutors also charge that Gendelman signed off on other building permits for Levy and was involved in the provision of a permit to construct an elder care home on land owned by the contractor. They say Levy was given open access to the mayor.

The indictment also listed a January 2018 request, made under freedom of information laws, to review Gendelman’s meeting schedules. Gendelman and his office administrator allegedly agreed to delete some of the meeting records stored in a computerized schedule system, including meetings with Levy.

In addition, Gendelman is accused of telling his driver to warn Levy to stay away from the municipality after the mayor learned that a member of the city council had informed police of the ties between the two of them.

The driver was indicted for obstruction of justice while Gendelman’s office manager was indicted under a plea agreement for fraud and breach of trust, receiving items fraudulently, and a computer offense.

In seeking to suspend Gendelman, Mandelblit wrote to the committee that although the mayor has only been indicted and not convicted, the continuation of his tenure after the indictment was filed could result in “severe damage to public trust” and the values ​​of moral purity and the rule of law.

Mandelblit likewise asked that the committee give its opinion on whether or not Gendelman can continue to serve in various other roles he holds as a member of the Hadera city council.

The police investigation surrounding Gendelman was part of a broader corruption investigation in the city. The mayor was among several suspects interrogated by the police anti-fraud unit, Lahav 433, in June 2018 after early-morning raids on their homes and offices. He was questioned over suspected bribery, corruption and tax-related offenses, and was remanded in custody for a week.

The investigation, a collaboration between Lahav 433 and the Tax Authority’s Yahalom investigative unit, saw police bug Gendelman’s office and spend months piecing together the relationship between the mayor and the contractor.

Despite the investigation against him, Gendelman was reelected as Hadera mayor in October 2018, with 41 percent of the vote.

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