(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Sufficient evidence exists to indict Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani over a string
of bribery and fraud offenses, police announced on Monday, following the
completion of a four-year investigation.
Responding to the announcement,
Lahiani said in a statement: “We thank the Israel Police for its quiet and swift
investigation, and wish them a happy New Year.”
suspicions that Lahiani instructed Bat Yam municipality instructors to take bank
loans and transfer the funds to him. After the alleged receipt of the funds,
Lahiani allegedly paid back the debts in monthly cash installments.
who took out loans were former activists in Lahiani’s mayoral election campaign,
police said, and were given their current positions after their predecessors
Private-business owners also allegedly gave Lahiani funds
from loans they took out. The same individuals required various municipal
procedures to be carried out, such as approval for construction plans. Police
said Lahiani covered up the source of the funds he received.
police, Lahiani also hid from the city council the fact that he was the owner of
a local newspaper chain called Gal Geffen during a period when the municipality
sought to publish paid ads in the paper. Other suspicions include giving out
illegal planning and construction permits.
“We believe that in all of the
cases mentioned above, a basis of evidence exists against Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo
Lahiani concerning suspicions of accepting bribes, fraud and breaching public
office, as well as money laundering offenses,” police said in a
“We also believe that evidence exists against other senior
officials in the municipality, and private individuals who are suspected of
giving bribes,” the statement added.
Police have recommended that no
charges be brought against a High Court judge who was questioned during the
investigation over the suspicion that he provided free legal advice to Lahiani.
No evidence was found to back up suspicions of bribery, police
Lahiani was first voted into office in 2003.
the National Economic Crime Unit launched an undercover investigation into his
activities in the municipality in 2007.
In 2009, the investigation became
overt, as several arrests, raids, searches, confiscation of documents and taking
of statements were carried out.
Lahiani was arrested in front of
cameramen after details of the arrest was leaked beforehand, causing a firestorm
Police condemned the leak and apologized for the harm
caused to Lahiani’s privacy.