Nazareth Illit Mayor Gafsou trial for bribery, fraud starts

Mayor, former top deputy Adi Barko face bribery and fraud charges in trial at Haifa District Court.

Gavel from Reuters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
Gavel from Reuters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
The trial of Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gafsou and his former top deputy, Adi Barko, on bribery and fraud charges began Wednesday before Haifa District Court Judge Oded Gershon.
According to the indictment, after the 2008 municipal elections, Gafsou and Barko had received what constituted a bribe by conditioning the completion of a financial transaction which City Council member Samyoun Brown was involved in on his resigning from the council.
Gafsou is also accused of accepting financial bribes from the head of the Ramle- Lod market in exchange for certain privileges.
The indictment also accuses Gafsou of bribing various persons to support his election by promising them jobs with the municipality after his election, as well as executing a secret coalition agreement with another local party in violation of election law.
“The casting of severe criminal suspicion against Mr. Gafsou reduces the public’s confidence in the Upper Nazareth Municipality’s institutions and in public service in general,” said attorney Nidal Hiyak of the Movement for Quality Government.
“The continuation of Mr. Gafsou as mayor will lead to a noticeable erosion of the public’s confidence.”
Following the indictment and shortly before the October 2013 municipal elections, Gafsou was fired by the High Court of Justice, along with two other indicted mayors, Ramat Hasharon’s Yitzchak Rochberger and Bat Yam’s Shlomo Lahiani.
However, the High Court left open the possibility of Gafsou running for reelection and he won by a landslide, despite the bad press associated with the indictment and his firing.
Soon after the election, the NGO Ometz filed a petition with the High Court to refire Gafsou. But on December 18, 2013, the Knesset approved a law which provides for suspending mayors under indictment under certain circumstances, which may obviate the petition.