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Police recommend string of corruption charges against Or Akiva mayor

Yaakov Edri, a former minister, allegedly received bribes under guise of donations for the needy, used money to buy luxury items

Yaakov Edri, the mayor of Or Akiva, at the Knesset, January 03, 2011. (Uri Lenz/FLASH90)
Yaakov Edri, the mayor of Or Akiva, at the Knesset, January 03, 2011. (Uri Lenz/FLASH90)

Police on Thursday recommended charging Yaakov Edri, the mayor of the northern Israel town of Or Akiva, with a string of corruption charges, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

With the conclusion of the investigation, police said in a statement that Edri, a former government minister, should also be charged with theft by a civil servant, theft by a licensee, conspiracy to commit a crime, money laundering, violence, obstruction of justice and tax offenses.

Police said the material gathered was sufficient to establish prima facie evidence of criminal offenses.

Investigators suspect that over the past decade, when Edri held various public positions, he allegedly acted “systematically to take advantage of his position and authority in order to influence [decisions] on behalf of various interested parties, in return for receiving bribes.”

The investigation into Edri became public last November, when he was arrested.

Since then, some 200 people have been probed and dozens of searches have been carried out, with hundreds of items seized, police said.

Edri allegedly set up an elaborate payment system for receiving the payments, in addition to receiving bribes in the form of purchase vouchers, given to him under the guise of donations for the needy.

During the course of the investigation, a woman also accused him of sexual assault and violence. However, those allegations were not included in the police recommendation to put him on trial.

Though his remand was extended several times, Edri was eventually released under restrictions, which included not engaging in his role as mayor, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Edri is a former MK for the Likud and Kadima parties, having served in the Knesset between 2003 and 2013. He was also health minister, immigration minister, and minister for the development of the Negev and the Galilee.

Edri’s arrest was part of a broader police corruption probe into the Or Akiva municipality that was launched over a year and half ago. Dozens of suspects have been detained for questioning in recent weeks. Edri and others are suspected of having promoted various tenders and permits in exchange for benefits.

Police suspect that Orly Yehezkel, who served as Edri’s righthand woman in the municipality, brokered the series of bribes on the mayor’s behalf.

The investigation’s findings indicated that vouchers meant to reach the needy in Or Akiva were transferred to the mayor’s cronies and used to purchase expensive clothes and other luxuries.

Yehezkel is also suspected of conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, forgery, theft, money laundering and income tax offenses.

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