Beit Shemesh city officials arrested in graft case
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Beit Shemesh city officials arrested in graft case

Police say senior municipal figures suspected of receiving kickbacks from businesspeople in return for development rights for city land

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

A construction site for new apartment buildings in Beit Shemesh on February 21, 2017. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)
A construction site for new apartment buildings in Beit Shemesh on February 21, 2017. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

A number of senior municipal officials in the city of Beit Shemesh were arrested Sunday on suspicion of bribery and corruption, police said in a statement.

Several businesspeople and developers were also among the 11 suspects detained for questioning on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, tax evasion and other crimes, police said.

Investigators suspect that the officials from the central Israeli town, who were not named by police, received valuable kickbacks from business people in return for advancing their interests by allowing them to purchase city land for development.

The police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit and the Israel Tax Authority also raided the suspects’ homes and their offices.

The suspects were questioned at a local police station and were to be brought for a remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court later in the day.

Corruption scandals have dogged numerous municipalities over recent years.

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 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.

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