Nazareth mayor outs self as official suspected of corruption

Ali Salam confirms he was among city employees interrogated by police this week for theft, accepting illegal gifts and breach of trust

Nazareth mayor Ali Salam appears at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, January 30, 2014. (Flash90)
Nazareth mayor Ali Salam appears at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, January 30, 2014. (Flash90)

Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam identified himself Tuesday as one of the city officials under investigation for corruption, a day after he was questioned by police.

In a statement carried by Hebrew-language media, Salam confirmed that he was interrogated by anti-fraud investigators for several hours on Monday, but indicated that police suspicions against him were the result of unnamed opponents’ attempts to discredit him.

“I was summoned for questioning and then immediately returned to work,” Salam said according to the Ynet news site, adding that some people were “determined to damage our work in the city.”

On Monday, police said it detained a number of city officials for questioning over suspicions of theft, accepting an illegal gift in aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust.

The statement said the investigation by the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit was ongoing, and the case would be transferred to the state attorney’s office upon completion.

The names of the other suspects are still under gag order.

Corruption scandals have dogged numerous Israeli cities over recent years.

In the central Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, a number of senior municipal officials were arrested Sunday on suspicion of bribery and corruption, with investigators suspecting that they received sizable kickbacks from business people in return for advancing their interests by allowing them to purchase land for development.

Planning committee chairman Moshe Montag and municipal engineer Daniel Tzarfati were remanded in custody until Thursday by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.

Montag is alleged to have given building permits and approval for real estate projects in exchange for bribes and benefits, including rezoning public areas to residential. He is suspected of fraud and conspiracy to commit crime. Tzarfati is also suspected of receiving favors and bribes in exchange for promoting ​​planning and construction of developers, as well as fraud and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The headquarters of the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit in Lod. (Flash90)

Last month police arrested or detained in three separate cases a total of 17 local officials across the country, including one municipal representative reportedly close to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Seven people were arrested when police and tax officials raided the Hevel Modiin Regional Council offices, including a senior elected official in the council. Seven others were taken to Lahav 433 headquarters for questioning as part of the same investigation. Two others were arrested in another corruption probe.

An ongoing, unrelated corruption investigation involving officials from the Rishon Lezion municipality and local developers has focused on MK David Bitan, a former deputy mayor in the city, who was forced to resign last December as coalition whip after it emerged that he was at the center of the probe.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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