Likud MK forgoes right to seek parliamentary immunity from graft indictment

David Bitan’s lawyers tell attorney general he is confident in his innocence, will contend with charges in court

Likud MK David Bitan attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK David Bitan attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK David Bitan’s lawyers on Thursday informed Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that he will not seek parliamentary immunity against indictment on multiple corruption charges.

“MK Bitan decided not to request from the Knesset immunity from prosecution but will contend with the charges in court, out of full confidence that at the end of the legal proceedings it will be determined there was no wrongdoing in his actions and that his name will be cleansed of any blemish,” the attorneys said in a statement.

State prosecutors last month announced that Bitan will be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as money laundering and tax offenses, over accusations he pocketed some NIS 715,000 ($220,000) in bribes while serving in public office.

The charges date back to when Bitan — a former coalition whip and confidant of ex-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu — was deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion before he was elected to the Knesset in 2013, but also include his tenure as an MK.

With Bitan having forgone a request for immunity from criminal prosecution, the indictment against him can now be filed with the court.

While he has denied wrongdoing, Bitan stepped down from his role as coalition whip in 2017, shortly after news of the police investigation broke.

Likud MK David Bitan at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He is accused of receiving bribes from his business associate Moshe Yosef and from businessman Dror Glazer, both while serving as deputy mayor of Israel’s fourth-largest city and later as a member of Knesset. Both men have testified against him.

Former deputy Tel Aviv mayor Arnon Giladi and then-Rishon Lezion mayor Dov Zur are also suspects in the alleged bribe-taking that took place between 2011 and 2017.

Police said last year that they had obtained detailed information on how the suspected bribes and money transfers were handled, in light of the testimony from Yosef, who owns a furniture store where Bitan was allegedly given the money.

Prosecutors said that Bitan advanced the interests of construction company Danya Cebus by approving real estate deals in Rishon Lezion, in exchange for a NIS 430,000 ($124,000) cash payment. The sum paid to Bitan was to secure Danya Cebus’s bid to win a municipal tender to build a gas station on the outskirts of the city, as well as approval for another construction project outside Jerusalem on Route 38.

They also said that they uncovered evidence that Bitan and Giladi accepted a bribe of NIS 385,000 ($111,000) 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.

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