Former Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Former 24-year Ramat Gan powerhouse Mayor Zvi Bar was convicted on Thursday by the Tel Aviv District Court of bribery, money-laundering and other offenses, while he was acquitted on some more minor offenses.
Bar had denied all of the charges in the trial which has been running since November 2013, and which included accusations of accepting around NIS 2 million in bribes and running a series of illegal interventions in real estate transactions in the city.
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 an NGO’s petition to the High Court of Justice to fire him – though he served out his term until the October 2013 elections.
He made the decision under the gun of a High Court interim order demanding that Bar and the Ramat Gan City Council further explain within 21 days why he should not resign or why the council would not fire him.
The court had already appeared to take Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s side with its conditional order. Weinstein had said that, legally, Bar must be removed from his post on the basis of the indictment against him for bribery, fraud and other crimes while in office.
While Weinstein made many points, the bottom line was that if an official committed a crime in his or her public capacity and through use of his or her public powers, it should serve as a multiplying factor to the severity of the crime.
In Bar’s case, this meant Weinstein said he was obligated to resign after having merely been indicted and not yet convicted, despite the principle of innocent until proven guilty.