Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of sex crimes, including rape, and of taking bribes from contractors, which he allegedly used to pay “hush money” to a female complainant.
Shimoni was one of five suspects arrested by police on Tuesday as part of a major undercover investigation centered on charges that Shimoni and other city officials took bribes worth hundreds of thousands of shekels in order to advance building projects that were subject to city approval.
The suspects also include Shimoni’s brother Ofer Shimoni, two contractors and a municipality official.
The charges against the mayor include bribery, breach of trust and money laundering, in addition to the sex crimes allegations.
Police believe that Shimoni victimized a number of women, but a police official was unable to give an exact number on Tuesday.
The investigation was conducted by police over several months, but only went public on Tuesday. The allegations against the mayor resemble bribery claims that have been made time and again against municipality officials in locales across Israel.
After Shimoni took office in late 2013, he made a name for himself nationally through his efforts fighting organized crime and corruption in Ashkelon, a city which has become a major hub for the underworld in recent years.