New development reported in Bitan corruption probe
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New development reported in Bitan corruption probe

Details of investigation into former coalition whip remain under gag order, as real estate developer Dror Glazer gives hours of testimony to police

Coalition chairman Likud party MK David Bitan leaving the Lahav 433 national crime unit of the Israel Police on December 10, 2017. (Roy Alima/Flash90)
Coalition chairman Likud party MK David Bitan leaving the Lahav 433 national crime unit of the Israel Police on December 10, 2017. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

The corruption probe into former coalition whip MK David Bitan (Likud) was boosted by a “major development” Sunday according to sources close to the investigation, but all details remained under gag order.

The Haaretz newspaper reported that the development was likely to spell even more trouble for Bitan.

Bitan is under investigation for allegedly accepting more than NIS 500,000 ($145,000) in bribes from businessmen while serving as deputy mayor of the coastal city of Rishon Lezion.

Police have said that two former Bitan associates and lead suspects in the case — real estate developer Dror Glazer and Rishon Lezion furniture store owner Moshe Yosef — have provided testimony against Bitan. Both are said to be in negotiations to turn state’s witness.

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

The Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday afternoon that Glazer had been giving testimony since the morning.

Glazer is suspected of having passed the money to Yosef so that Bitan would use his influence to help advance real estate projects his company was interested in.

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 is Ronen Ginzburg, the CEO of Danya Cebus, a major 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.

Ginzburg was 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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