Former coalition chairman David Bitan.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Coalition chairman David Bitan was questioned on Sunday for over eight hours about his involvement in Rishon Lezion Municipality corruption case in Lahav 433 headquarters in Lod.
Bitan is suspected of accepting a bribe, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust.
Police stressed that the investigation “is [being] conducted under the supervision of the State’s prosecutor and the authority of the attorney-general.”
Businessmen, construction contractors, organized crime figures and municipality officials – including Rishon Lezion Mayor Dov Tzur – are involved in the case, which was dubbed by police as Case 1803.
Among the suspects is Bitan’s wife, Hagit, that some NIS 2 million was found in her bank account relating to the probe.
The Jerusalem Post
’s sister publication Maariv
reported that Bitan was confronted for the first time with testimonies and evidence that ties him to the case.
It was reported previously that the police have eavesdropped to businessman Moshe Yosef, who is considered to be close to Bitan. In a conversation between him and Bitan, they have discussed Bitan’s debts to the “gray market” and about the transactions of a large amount of money, according to reports.
It is believed that Bitan advanced the interests of several organized-crime figures, such as Hussam Jarushi, in exchange for assisting him in erasing alleged debts to the criminal entities.
He is suspected of accepting money from unidentified businessmen in return for green-lighting construction projects, including in an area called the “1,000 Compound” in western Rishon Lezion.
Israeli News Broadcasting Corporation Kan reported that police have records of a meeting between Bitan, Tzur and Yosef where they discussed the “1,000 Compound.” They added that police suspect that Yosef had a financial interest in advancing the project there.
Last week Bitan blamed the police for leaking details from his questioning to the media.
He then appealed to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to allow him to be interviewed by the media on this matter.
He asked that the restrictions be lifted, saying that he wished to combat leaks from the investigation made by the police.
“The [Lahav 433] investigating unit asks to avoid talking to the media in order to prevent the ‘disruption of the investigation,’” reads the letter that was sent to the court by his attorney. “[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 are defamed for no reason, and he has no opportunity to respond.”