Police recommend Bat Yam mayor be prosecuted over bribery

No evidence found to back up suspicions of bribery on part of Supreme Court Judge Yoram Danziger who was questioned in affair.

September 19, 2011 15:04
2 minute read.
A gavel strikes at the issuing of justice

311_gavel. (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.”

Police investigated 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.

Those who took out loans were former activists in Lahiani’s mayoral election campaign, police said, and were given their current positions after their predecessors were fired.

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.

According to 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 statement.

“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 said.

Lahiani was first voted into office in 2003.

Officers from 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 of controversy.

Police condemned the leak and apologized for the harm caused to Lahiani’s privacy.

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