Police said set to recommend charging ex-coalition whip for bribery
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Police said set to recommend charging ex-coalition whip for bribery

Likud MK David Bitan, suspected of receiving hundreds of thousands of shekels, also likely to be charged with money laundering and tax offenses

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

David Bitan, during a plenum session in the Knesset on March 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)
David Bitan, during a plenum session in the Knesset on March 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)

Police will recommend indicting former coalition whip Likud MK David Bitan in the coming weeks, for allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes, Channel 10 news reported Sunday.

Bitan, who stepped down as coalition whip after it was revealed he was being investigated but remains a Knesset member, is also likely to be charged with money laundering and tax offenses, the news site said.

The lawmaker is suspected of receiving the money, both while serving as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion and later as a member of parliament, from his business associate Moshe Yosef and businessman Dror Glazer, who have both testified against Bitan.

The report said that police and the state prosecution were in almost complete agreement that Bitan should be charged.

However, the case against Rishon Lezion Mayor Dov Zur, who is also suspected of receiving bribes, is more “problematic,” the report said, and it appears likely he will avoid indictment.

Zur was arrested in early December for alleged involvement in the bribery case involving Bitan and other senior figures in the Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv municipalities. He is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for promoting certain construction projects in the city together with contractors.

Bitan’s lawyer, Ephraim Demari maintained that his client was innocent. “The recommendations are only recommendations,” he told reporters.

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)

Investigators reportedly hold specific information on how the suspected bribes and money transfers were handled, having received testimony from a furniture store owner, Yosef, a key suspect in the case. Bitan was confronted with Yosef’s testimony during an interrogation on January 28.

In a major development, Yosef reportedly gave detailed testimony, telling investigators that the bribes were frequent, including during the past five years. Yosef told investigators that he had delivered hundreds of thousands of shekels to Bitan during visits the Likud lawmaker made to Yosef’s Metzada furniture store.

Yosef is thought to have acted as the go-between for Bitan and businesspeople, handing over money and keeping a percentage for himself, apparently as payment for large loans he gave to Bitan at a time when the politician was heavily in debt. Police have referred to him as Bitan’s “banker.”

The investigation, dubbed Case 1803, has seen the arrests of a number of suspects in addition to Zur, including other city officials, local businessmen, and organized crime figures.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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