Court reveals name of alleged bribe offerer in Bitan case

Mandelblit’s statement in January alleged Bitan received around NIS 990,000 in bribes along with an unknown value of ownership rights in real estate between 2011-2017.

David Bitan (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
David Bitan
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Sunday removed the gag order on the name of one of the key men who allegedly offered bribes to Likud MK David Bitan.
Until now, developer Moti Shavni had merely been referred to as M.S. through years of investigation and even after a major announcement by the prosecution in January.
In January, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit notified Bitan, who had been coalition chairman and designated to become a minister, that he will likely indict him for bribery, money laundering, fraud, breach of trust and tax offenses, subject to a hearing.
Bitan denies all the charges.
Mandelblit’s statement in January alleged Bitan received around NIS 990,000 in bribes along with an unknown value of ownership rights in real estate between 2011-2017.
The period, which includes nine different alleged criminal instances, covers both his term as Rishon Lezion deputy mayor and as MK.
Shavni is suspected of offering Bitan two residential units or their equivalent value in exchange for his shepherding through approvals for certain building projects.
The prosecution’s decision to move toward indicting Shavni was a major factor in swaying the court to remove the gag order on his name.
In the police recommendation to indict Bitan from March 2019, there were 12 separate instances, such that Mandelblit accepted some, but not all, of the police charges against Bitan.
In December, Bitan was on the verge of his dream of receiving a ministerial portfolio from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but various signals that Mandelblit was close to an indictment thwarted the plans.
Bitan’s defense could be complicated by his general insistence during questioning by police to remain silent.
Although suspects have a right to remain silent, courts will often view that silence as a sign that the suspects did not have a defense.
In exchange for the mentioned alleged bribes, Mandelblit’s statement said Bitan acted to promote the interests of those giving the bribes, including Danya Cebus Ltd., a food department chain, real estate developers and contractors.
Though Bitan has remained an MK, he stepped down as coalition chairman in 2017 when it became apparent that the criminal investigation into his activities was not going to blow over quickly and could distract from Netanyahu’s agenda.
The criminal investigation became officially public in December 2017.
According to the police statement in March 2019, sufficient evidence had been found on dozens of other suspects as well.
The state prosecution said it was also intending to indict Tel Aviv deputy mayor Arnon Giladi, subject to a hearing and around 19 other suspects.
The affair, which was investigated by Lahav 433 (the National Fraud Squad), has been dubbed “File 1803.”
In its March statement, police said they interrogated over 300 witnesses, 80 of which were questioned as suspects, searched dozens of locations across the country and seized around 700 files of documents.
Between 2013-2015, Bitan allegedly advanced the interests of construction company Danya Cebus, run by Ronen Ginzberg, by approving real estate deals in Rishon Lezion and with the Transportation Ministry in exchange for around NIS 513,000.
The bribe was paid to Bitan to obtain rights to build a gas station on the city’s border near Route 431 as well as an approval for another project on Route 38.
In addition, Bitan and Giladi allegedly accepted a bribe of NIS 385,000 to obtain approvals for three real estate projects in Tel Aviv. Some of the bribery funds were transferred to Bitan using fake invoices, according to the charges.
Some of the investors and others involved in allegedly paying bribes besides Shavni are referred to as D.G., M.Y., Beni Solimani, Eli Nahum, Albert Bitan, Yitzhak Jedah, and one scheme is referred to as “half-free.”
According to the charges, Bitan, Giladi, and former Rishon Lezion mayor Dov Zur organized Knesset and local meetings on behalf of those bribing them, smoothed over needed approvals and ensured that certain tax obligations were reduced.