Police recommend charging Ashkelon mayor for bribes

Roni Mehatzri allegedly took bribes from private businessmen.

ronnie mehatzri 88 (photo credit: )
ronnie mehatzri 88
(photo credit: )
The Israel Police announced Wednesday morning that it had concluded its investigation into Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mehatzri, and recommended that the District Attorney's office indict him for election bribery. The National Fraud Squad had been investigating Mehatzri under suspicion that the mayor had been involved in bribery-related offenses. The investigation was initiated following suspicions that Mehatzri had accepted bribes from private businessmen. In addition, police said, they probed a number of instances in which they suspected that he had also offered election-related bribes during the November 2003 mayoral campaign. In the case of the personal bribes, police said that they were "certain that there was not any evidence to support suspicions that Mehatzri had accepted bribes." With regard to the election bribe allegations, police said, the picture was less positive for Mehatzri. There, they said, police had found "evidentiary infrastructure for a small number of the allegations" to support suspicions that Mehatzri had offered bribes during the campaign. Police have at least partial evidence that Mehatzri may have offered plum municipal positions in exchange for votes. On Wednesday, police said, the case file was passed on to the Southern District Attorney's office for review. Police recommended that the DA press charges for the election-related suspicion. Mehatzri, a former career IDF officer, was elected to the top position of the southern city in the 2003 elections, breaking decades of Likud control by running independently as a member of the "Ashkelon Hahadasha" (the New Ashkelon) Movement.