Police reportedly investigating coalition chair over bribery allegations

Likud MK David Bitan dismisses allegation as ‘witch hunt against right-wingers’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK David Bitan. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK David Bitan.
Five senior staff members and suppliers of an unidentified state-owned company were detained for questioning Tuesday by the police’s Lahav 443 Unit, for allegedly taking bribes to expedite tenders, grant appointments and apportion other favorable treatment.
While most of the details of the probe are being withheld, the National Financial Investigations Unit said the unidentified suspects were being questioned after their computers and related files were seized during the protracted investigation.
Those being questioned include the company’s CEO, marketing director and three suppliers.
If arrested, the suspects will be arraigned at Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.
In a brief statement, the police said it was cracking down on all financial crimes in government companies and will “bring offenders to justice.”
Benjamin Netanyahu dismissive of corruption allegations on January 2, 2017
“The police will continue to investigate and expose illicit processes, such as promoting tenders and appointments for [suppliers] in exchange for bribes, and will continue to strike at the heart of corruption wherever it appears in governmental companies,” the statement said.
Also on Tuesday, coalition chairman and Likud MK David Bitan – described as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “human shield” – was reportedly being questioned by police for accepting bribes to pay off a NIS 7 million debt before entering the Knesset in 2015.
While police have yet to confirm the probe, according to Haaretz, the National Fraud Investigation Unit has gathered evidence against Bitan stemming from his time as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion between 2005 and 2015.
Bitan chaired the city’s local zoning board and held its engineering portfolio before joining Likud and becoming coalition chairman following the last general election.
He is accused of accepting money from unidentified businessmen during his tenure at Rishon Lezion’s municipality, to pay off the debt.
The probe, which has reportedly since ensnared several Rishon Lezion officials, was authorized by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan, Haaretz reported.
According to an unidentified Rishon Lezion official, Bitan briefly went into hiding to dodge his creditors, and allegedly accepted bribes from developers in exchange for green-lighting construction projects.
“One day, two thugs came into the office, and with one glance you could see what type of people they were,” the official told The- Marker.
“They immediately started yelling, ‘Where is David Bitan?’ I said to them, ‘Listen, I’m searching for him just as much as you are.’” Bitan categorically denied the allegations on Tuesday, which he dismissed as a “shameful witchhunt conducted by Haaretz against right-wingers and anyone who does not agree with their agenda.