Within a week of being fired and reelected as mayor of Bat Yam, Shlomo Lahiani was arraigned on Sunday for his trial on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of public trust and perjury.
This is “my first time in court,” he told the press, and “I’m sure it will end well.”
Lahiani said that after a long wait for the state to decide whether to indict him, the court would finally get to rule on the charges and he was “sure the court will make the right decision.”
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court gave Lahiani until February 5 to file his response to the indictment and ordered the trial to start in April, running three days per week to try to conclude the case by mid-summer.
Lahiani appeared to check with his lawyer Kenneth Mann if the proceedings could run five days per week to finish even faster, but Mann did not pursue the issue, three days of trial per week already being viewed as a fast-track.
Lahiani is accused of taking around NIS 900,000 in bribes, of asking employees to take bank loans and transfer the money to him and of having a conflict of interest in dealings between the Bat Yam municipality and a company that he partially owns.
He is not out of the woods before the High Court of Justice, which allowed him to run for reelection, but essentially warned him that it could decide to fire him again if he was reelected.
OMETZ – The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel has already filed a petition asking the High Court to refire Lahiani.
There is also a legislative initiative that could lead to suspending him and other local officials under indictment, but not a permanent removal.
Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger will be called as a state witness against Lahiani. At an earlier stage of the investigation, Danziger was considered an additional suspect, having served as Lahiani’s lawyer and being his close friend, and he had to suspend himself from his judicial duties. He was later cleared of suspicion.
Various tax-crime charges pending against the mayor were thrown out following Lahiani’s successful attempt to convince the state to drop them as part of a pre-indictment hearing, where he presented counter-evidence.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!