MK Bitan remains silent during fifth graft interrogation
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MK Bitan remains silent during fifth graft interrogation

Investigators said to present the former coalition whip with detailed evidence from two former associates who are in talks to turn state witness

Likud Knesset member and former coalition chairman David Bitan leaves his home on his way to another round of questioning at the Lahav 433 unit of the Israel Police, January 4, 2018. (Flash90)
Likud Knesset member and former coalition chairman David Bitan leaves his home on his way to another round of questioning at the Lahav 433 unit of the Israel Police, January 4, 2018. (Flash90)

Former coalition chair MK David Bitan was interrogated for the fifth time Thursday over suspicions that he received more than NIS 500,000 ($145,000) in bribes while serving as deputy mayor of the coastal city of Rishon Lezion.

He remained silent throughout the interrogation, as he did during his previous questioning session.

The 90-minute session, at the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit headquarters in Lod, took place against the backdrop of detailed testimony provided by two former Bitan associates and lead suspects in the case — real estate developer Dror Glazer and Rishon Lezion furniture store owner Moshe Yosef — police sources said.

Both Glazer and Yosef are in negotiations to turn state’s witness.

As part of an emerging deal, Glazer would be sentenced to a few months in prison and pay a hefty fine in return for state witness status, Israel Radio reported Thursday.

Glazer is suspected of having transferred NIS 250,000 ($72,000) to Bitan via Yosef, dubbed by police as “Bitan’s banker.”

Ronen Ginzburg, CEO of Danya Cebus, attends a Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee meeting at the Knesset, September 8, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A third figure in the case, whose identity was revealed Wednesday, is Ronen Ginzburg, the CEO of Danya Cebus, a construction company with numerous projects in Rishon Lezion.

Ginzburg is suspected of bribery, money laundering and tax evasion and of transferring NIS 300,000 ($87,000) to Bitan, via Yosef. His remand was extended for six days on Wednesday.

Ginzburg is expected to appeal against the extension of his remand on the grounds that while money was paid to Yosef , it was done not as a bribe but to employ Yosef as a lobbyist — without any knowledge that the money would reach Bitan.

Yosef is suspected of issuing fake receipts for “consulting fees” and then sharing the money he received with Bitan.

Bitan, during his time as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion, is also suspected of taking loans from members of the Jarushi crime family and, when he was unable to repay them, offering favors in exchange for forgiveness of the loans.

The investigation, dubbed Case 1803 by police, has seen the arrests of a number 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.

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