(photo credit: Channel 10 )
Police arrested Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani early Monday on suspicion of major fraud, alleging he had exploited his position to promote his personal interests and those of his family.
Dozens of officers from the National Economic Crimes Division of the Lahav 433 Unit together with Israel Tax Authority officials raided Lahiani's home and Bat Yam City Hall.
Fifteen additional suspects were taken into custody during the raids, including the mayor's brother, Avi Lahiani.
"Following an undercover investigation, suspicions surfaced that Lahiani used the municipality's local planning and construction committee to gain personal financial benefit for himself and his family members," police said.
"The investigation is being accompanied by Tel Aviv state tax prosecutors and the Tax Authority," police added.
On Monday evening, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court extended Lahiani's custody by a day, though police had asked to extend his custody by four days.
Before being led into the court, Lahiani told reporters: "I'm very optimistic. I know exactly what I did and what I didn't do."
Lahiani's attorney, Amnon Zichroni, denied all the charges, and complained that police had alerted press photographers to the arrest before it took place.
"Police are telling fables to the media," he said.
Additional suspects include Lahiani's brother, Avi, who is suspected of exploiting his brother's position to promote his personal interests. Avi Lahiani's custody was extended by five days on Monday.
A third suspect was named as Gil Harel, the owner of a currency exchange business that police and tax officials suspect was used by Lahiani to illegally deposit funds.
Lahiani is also suspected of paying a traffic ticket using city funds.