Former coalition chairman David Bitan.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Coalition Chairman David Bitan (Likud), who is currently suspected for accepting a bribe, appealed to court on Tuesday to allow him to be interviewed by the media regarding the investigation.
Bitan asked that the restrictions be lifted, saying that he wishes to combat leaks from the investigation room that were made by the police.
“The [Lahav 433] investigating unit asks to avoid talking to media in order to prevent the ‘disruption of the investigation,’” the letter that was sent to court by his attorney reads,“[but] if giving details could lead to disruption of the investigation, this rule should all the more so apply to the investigating unit.
“The questioning had only just ended and you couldn’t find one media outlet in the country that did not publish details from the petitioner’s (Bitan) and his wife’s interrogation. The petitioner is helpless. His name, and his wife’s name is defamed for no reason, and he has no opportunity to respond.”
Meanwhile, police investigation into Rishon Lezion’s corruption has broadened, as four more suspects were arrested Monday morning, and a fifth Monday night.
It was also revealed that the close relative of David Bitan who was questioned on Sunday and Monday was his wife, Hagit.
Some NIS 2 million were found in Hagit Bitan’s bank account. Channel 2 News reported on Monday that Hagit Bitan said in questioning that she did not know how the money got to her account.
“My husband was the one who deposited the money there,” she was quoted as saying. “I have no idea how it got there.”
“I did not go into every transaction that was made,” she added. “I trusted him and believed in him. I never suspected him then, nor do I today.”
During the questioning, police interrogators presented Bitan with documents from eight years ago when the money was deposited.
This comes after two rounds of arrests in Case 1803 – five were arrested on Monday, and 17 on Sunday.
David Bitan, who was questioned on Sunday for over 14 hours, is suspected of receiving bribes from an organized-crime group member Hussam Jarushi so that he offer a tender to an unnamed businessmen.
Bitan denied the allegations and said that he doesn’t know Jarushi.
Bitan was reportedly asked in his questioning about deals that took place while he was a Knesset member and also while he was Rishon Lezion deputy mayor. The deals were allegedly made to benefit organized-crime group members and businessmen to help Bitan erase debts to these criminal entities.
Bitan is also suspected of advancing the licensing of a gas station in Rishon Lezion that belongs to an associate of his, Shefi Sasson, who is a Likud activist from the city and was one of the suspects arrested Monday.
Bitan is expected to be questioned again by the Lahav 433 unit on Wednesday.
Another central figure in the case was named on Tuesday as Moshe Yoessef, a Rishon Lezion businessman, who allegedly mediated between the Jarushi family and municipality officials.
Arnon Giladi, the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv and a senior official in the Tel Aviv Municipality, was also questioned on Monday. It was reported that he is suspected for accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.
Giladi wrote on Facebook: “I was asked to testify and I did it with full cooperation with police.”
“I’ve never hidden my friendship with MK David Bitan,” he wrote.
On Sunday, police arrested multiple figures in Rishon Lezion, including municipality officials, businessmen and organized-crime figures. The officials are suspected of corruption and were arrested as part of a covert operation aimed at revealing the connections between criminal elements, local municipalities and national governmental structures.