Senior official held for taking bribes

Building inspector allegedly overlooked construction violations in e. J'lem.

isawiya 224.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
isawiya 224.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A senior Interior Ministry building inspector was under arrest Tuesday for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from east Jerusalem Arab residents over the last two years in return for overlooking construction violations, police said. Asher Prosper Gabai, 51, of the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, was apprehended Tuesday morning following a half-year long undercover police investigation. A court gag order which was imposed on the case was lifted Tuesday afternoon. According to police, the Israeli building supervisor would accept thousands of dollars in bribes from each of the Arab residents, in return for turning a blind eye to illegal construction in 'green areas' where building is strictly forbidden. Moreover, in exchange for the money, the building inspector promised to get the residents building permits so that their houses would not be demolished, police said, adding that dozens of Arab homes were illegally built in the city in such a way primarily in the Arab neighborhoods of Beit Hanina, A-Tur and Shuafat. Police also arrested a 45-year-old east Jerusalem man, Nasser Abu Sabach, who is suspected of serving as the intermediary between the Israeli inspector and the Arab residents of the city, pocketing some of the bribe money himself. The inspector and his suspected Arab go-between were remanded in custody for six days Tuesday by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court. The Interior Ministry had no immediate comment on the arrest Tuesday. Police have amassed testimony of Arab residents of the city who took part in the bribery scam. Police said that more arrests are expected in the case in the coming days. Palestinians and left-wing groups routinely complain it is difficult for Arabs to obtain building permits in Jerusalem forcing them to build illegally, while the municipality insists it is evenhanded in enforcing building codes in all parts of the city.