Israel Police patrol car [File].
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Police made 13 arrests on Tuesday in two unrelated corruption cases involving municipality and local council officials in Rishon Lezion and the Emmanuel settlement, adding to a number of high-profile municipal corruption scandals in recent months.
In Rishon Lezion police arrested 10 suspects including municipal employees, members of the city council, and religious association leaders in the city on suspicion of withdrawing hundreds of thousands of shekels from the municipality for “invented events” or events whose scope was inflated, police said. Religious organizations in the city requested payment for events far beyond the actual cost, police said.
Investigators suspect the municipality overpaid for small events billed as having large amounts of people that took place in the town’s religious community, including religious lessons at community centers, celebrating the introduction of a Torah scroll, and other religious events.
Meanwhile, in Emmanuel three senior local council officials were arrested on suspicion of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The main suspect is alleged to have bribed local Chabad leaders in exchange for their support in a 2013 election campaign. The suspect is also alleged to have received bribes from building contractors to further their interests.
The Emmanuel council offices and the suspect’s homes were searched by police investigators on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s arrests add to a number of municipality corruption scandals in recent months, including the arrest of Safed Mayor Ilan Shohat on suspicion of bribery and fraud in February. In March police recommended to indict Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg- Ikar, as well as her son and ex-husband, regarding alleged real estate bribery deals.
“This joins a series of recently exposed cases that raise criminal suspicions against senior public officials in the local authorities, with an emphasis on exposing fraud and money laundering that directly harm the public and harm integrity,” the police’s Intelligence and Investigations Division said in a statement on Tuesday.