ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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Woman sentenced to 7 months of community service for bribing Likud MK Bitan

Lihi Sunak-Kuperly gave checks worth NIS 40,000 to then-deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion for supermarket giant Hatzi Hinam to receive benefits from municipality; MK denies charge

Illustrative: People shopping outside the Hatzi Hinam supermarket branch in Rishon Lezion, December 29, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Illustrative: People shopping outside the Hatzi Hinam supermarket branch in Rishon Lezion, December 29, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

A woman was sentenced on Tuesday by the Central District Court in Lod to seven and a half months of community service for bribing Likud MK David Bitan in 2014.

Lihi Sunak-Kuperly was charged with bribing Bitan when he was deputy mayor of the central city of Rishon Lezion, on behalf of the Hatzi Hinam supermarket chain.

In addition to the community service, Sunak-Kuperly was fined NIS 30,000 ($9,000) and ordered to pay a forfeiture of NIS 40,000 ($12,000) while Hatzi Hinam was also fined NIS 150,000 ($44,500) for the same charge as part of a plea deal accepted by the court.

Sunak-Kuperly, who served as manager of Hatzi Hinam’s real estate assets, was convicted of giving MK Bitan — a former Likud coalition whip and a confidant of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a total of NIS 40,000 through an intermediary in exchange for his help in allocating public parking areas for the supermarket’s use and providing the company with tax breaks.

Checks were made out to an association called the Ping Pong Rishon Lezion School for Futsal and Soccer, which were then exchanged by Bitan’s confidant through the association for cash. Bitan stands accused of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in the case. The MK has denied the charges.

Sunak-Kuperly said during the hearing that facing the charges was “a very difficult situation” for her and admitted she “made a mistake” by not consulting with others on the matter.

“I was young and didn’t really understand those situations and this is a life lesson I will never forget,” she said, calling her punishment a “gift” that will allow her to assist the elderly through community service.

Likud MK David Bitan attends a hearing at the Lod District Court, on January 19, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Eran Shaham Shavit, the lawyer representing Hatzi Hinam and Sunak-Kuperly, said the court’s acceptance of the plea deal demonstrated that the charges against his client were “inflated.”

Bitan is also accused of receiving bribes from business associate Moshe Yosef and from businessman Dror Glazer, both while serving as deputy mayor and later as a member of Knesset between 2011 and 2017. Both men have testified against him.

Police said in 2020 that they had obtained detailed information on how the suspected bribes and money transfers were handled, in light of the testimony from Yosef, who owns a furniture store where Bitan was allegedly given the money.

Prosecutors alleged that Bitan advanced the interests of construction company Danya Cebus by approving real estate deals in Rishon Lezion, in exchange for a NIS 430,000 ($124,000) cash payment. The sum paid to Bitan was to secure Danya Cebus’s bid to win a municipal tender to build a gas station on the outskirts of the city, as well as approval for another construction project outside Jerusalem on Route 38.

They also said that they uncovered evidence that Bitan and Giladi accepted a bribe of NIS 385,000 ($111,000) to secure building permits for three real estate projects in Tel Aviv. Police said some of the bribe money was transferred to Bitan using fake invoices.

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