Former Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday sentenced former Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar to five-and-a-half years in prison for multiple convictions of bribery, money-laundering and other offenses.
In addition, he received an NIS 1.5 million fine to be paid by October 10.
Bar, who was mayor for 24 years from 1989 to 2013, had denied all of the charges at the trial, which included accusations of accepting around NIS 2m. in bribes and carrying out a series of illegal interventions in real estate transactions in the city.
Separately, he was acquitted of some more minor breach of public trust offenses.
The sentence was yet another blow to the former mayor, who plead his innocence until the end, including in response to the court’s decision, defiantly saying that he would appeal.
He had asked for mere community service in recognition that his actions had not hurt others and of his many years of public service.
The prosecution had asked for a nine-year prison sentence and an NIS 5m. fine.
While the court’s sentence could be viewed as a midpoint, overall it was a heavy sentence in the scheme of potential bribery sentences with it saying that Bar was “central,” “involved in all of the bribery schemes” and that he had “exploited his high position to obtain bribes.”
Former Ramat Gan city council member Carmel Shama- Hacohen, who blew the whistle on Bar, said “this is a moment of restoring deterrence, for justice and the rule of law.”
Bar’s sentence completes a series of victories by the prosecution against a range of mayors including Yitzhak Rochberger of Ramat Hasharon, Shimon Gafsou of Upper Nazareth and Shlomo Lahiani of Bat Yam.
In its opening statement, the prosecution said Bar had made sure that he was the gatekeeper of all real estate transactions, ensuring that developers could only move forward by paying him off.
Bar announced his resignation as mayor in July 2013 following a nongovernmental organization’s petition to the High Court of Justice to fire him – though he served out his term until the October 2013 municipal election.