Police are reportedly in possession of an incriminating recording of coalition chairman David Bitan related to a far-reaching corruption probe involving the Likud lawmaker and a number of top officials from the city of Rishon Lezion.
In the recording, Bitan can be heard counting money with his associate Moshe Yosef, a businessman from Rishon Lezion who was arrested earlier this week in connection with the investigation, Hadashot TV news reported on Friday.
According to Hadashot news, Yosef is a key suspect in the case and allegedly handled the bribes Bitan is suspected of having received from contractors in exchange for granting tenders while serving as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion.
The report said the recording was made by a device installed by police in Yosef’s furniture store in the city.
The TV report came after Bitan was questioned by police for a second time Wednesday at the Lahav 433 national crime unit on suspicion of receiving bribes, fraud, money laundering and breach of trust.
As he left his house on the way to his interrogation, Bitan said he had strong support from his fellow Likud party members, and decried the leaks from the investigation.
“It is accepted that people are not allowed to give interviews during interrogations, but they should ensure there are no leaks,” he said. “We filed a request with the court in which we mentioned this. I have received good support from my friends in Likud.”
Bitan petitioned the court on Tuesday with a request he be permitted to give interviews to counter what he described as biased police leaks to the media.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Bitan’s wife, Hagit, had been grilled for 10 hours on Sunday over the suspected money laundering and then released to house arrest at her sister’s home. During her interrogation, she was asked about a sum of more than NIS 1.5 million (roughly $430,000) deposited in her bank account around eight years ago. At the time, her husband’s bank account was under restrictions due to debts amounting to millions of shekels.
Bitan is reportedly suspected of having received a bribe from a crime figure in return for swaying a real estate tender in his favor when Bitan was serving as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion. On Monday, police announced that they had arrested Husam Jarushi, a senior member of the Jarushi crime family, in connection with the case.
According to Channel 10, Bitan maintained his innocence to investigators during questioning.
Some 20 Rishon Lezion city officials were arrested or questioned as part of the widening corruption probe, known as Case 1803. Among those scooped up by police after a long investigation were Rishon Lezion Mayor Dov Zur, two parliamentary aides, contractors and businesspeople.