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Tel Aviv court bars convicted Bat Yam mayor from politics for 7 years

This past spring, Lahiani cut a plea bargain with the state, leading the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to convict him on multiple charges of breach of public trust and fraud.

September 30, 2014 09:16
2 minute read.
Judges preside in court

Judges preside in court (Illustrative). (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Benny Sagi on Tuesday gave Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani a surprisingly light sentence of zero jail time and a mere six months of community service, on multiple charges of breach of public trust and fraud.

Sagi terminated Lahiani’s chances, however, of returning to his mayoral office – from which he has been temporarily suspended – and may have ended Lahiani’s political career by suspending him from any political office for seven years.

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While the prosecution is disappointed in the lack of jail time and Lahiani is upset about his political career, either could appeal – though neither is expected to.

The seven-year suspension comes automatically from the court’s finding that Lahiani’s acts constituted moral turpitude, an unusual finding to make without corresponding jail time.

The court also fined Lahiani NIS 250,000.

In a sudden turn after years of claiming he would fight until the end, Lahiani cut a plea bargain with the state on May 8, leading the court to convict him.

The price the state paid for Lahiani throwing in the towel was striking the more serious bribery offenses, which would have carried a jail sentence, possibly a lengthy one.

The prosecution’s request that Lahiani, 49, serve one year of prison time was rejected by the court on several grounds.

Lahiani himself had asked for community service and no prison time, while neither endorsing nor opposing the state’s request to impose a finding of moral turpitude.

The court noted that by accepting the plea bargain and avoiding a trial, he had accepted responsibility and saved time for the judicial system.

It also noted that he had been arrested at the start of the case and that he was paying a serious price by losing his office as mayor and being banned from politics for seven years.

MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) responded angrily to Lahiani’s escaping prison time, saying that the court had “gone easy” on him and that the sentence was “strange and inconceivable.”

She added, “what message are we sending to public servants?” in terms of getting special treatment even when a court convicts them of corruption.

The mayor, who had already been temporarily suspended from his post, was arraigned in October 2013 on charges of taking around NIS 900,000 in bribes.

The bribes were in exchange for advancing the interests of local businessmen in Bat Yam and asking nine municipal employees to take bank loans and transfer the money to him, starting in 2005, the prosecution said.

Until the plea bargain, Lahiani said he did not know about the illegalities, and that others involved, such as his brother Avi, had acted independently, with prosecutor Sharon Cahana saying that the opposite was true.

After being reelected as mayor of Bat Yam in October 2013, despite having been indicted and previously fired by the High Court of Justice, Lahiani was temporarily suspended by a committee set up to suspend certain mayors under indictment for serious corruption charges.

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