(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/MAARIV)
The Israel Prisons Service on Monday granted Shlomo Lahiani an early release upon completion of two-thirds of his eighth-month sentence at Hermon Prison.
No date was set for the discharging of the disgraced former Bat Yam mayor, who began serving his term on December 24, 2015.
In 2014, Lahiani, 48, pleaded guilty to breach of trust, failing to declare and to pay taxes on NIS 8 million in income, and accepting bribes of some NIS 900,000.
The disgraced mayor will not be able to return to public service for seven years since his conviction on corruption charges came with a finding of moral turpitude.
Lahiani’s legal woes may not be over. He may be face further fraud allegations following a recent court decision nullifying the last round of elections in Bat Yam, which cited Lahiani as violating municipal election rules.
Despite its knowledge of the potential new allegations against Lahiani and the prosecution’s opposition to releasing him, the parole board relied on reports from social workers which found that the ex-mayor was rehabilitated while in prison.
The board ruled Lahiani should not be penalized for the newest allegations as part of considering shortening his sentence in so far as he has not yet been indicted for the new allegations.
Before entering prison in December, Lahiani told the media that serving his sentence made him feel “like a man running a marathon.”
In April, the Tel Aviv District Court stiffened Lahiani’s sentence from six months’ community service to eighth months in prison, granting a state appeal that the lower court sentence had been too lenient.
The decision followed the September 2014 decision by Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Beni Sagi in which he had given Lahiani a surprisingly lighter sentence with no jail time.
In a sudden turn, after years of claiming he would fight until the end, Lahiani cut a plea bargain with the state in May 2014 and was convicted. The price the state paid for Lahiani throwing in the towel was striking the more serious bribery offenses, which would have carried an even longer jail sentence.
The mayor was arraigned in October 2013 on charges that starting in 2005 he took around NIS 900,000 in bribes in exchange for advancing the interests of Bat Yam businessmen. He was also charged with asking nine municipal employees to take out bank loans and transfer the money to him.
Lahiani was further accused of a conflict of interest for holding partial ownership in a local newspaper in which the Bat Yam Municipality bought advertising space.
Under Lahiani’s probation terms, he is prohibited from leaving the country and will be placed under house arrest from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. He is also required to report to his local police station every second week.