Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided Wednesday to close the investigation for bribery involving Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger, who will be returning to the bench on Thursday.
The justice took a leave of absence in August after Weinstein gave police the green light to start an investigation. Danziger was initially questioned as a witness in the probe against Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani on fraud and bribery charges, but in August the Supreme Court justice was questioned under caution about his relationship with Lahiani and the circumstances that led to his appointment as Bat Yam's attorney, before his elevation to the bench. Danziger received more than NIS 800,000 for his legal services to the municipality.
After Danziger was questioned by the economic crime squad, the head of the police Investigations and Intelligence Branch, Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich, reviewed the case and determined that it should be closed. The investigative team reportedly believed that the reason for the investigation's closure should be attributed not to lack of culpability, but rather to a lack of evidence.
But the attorney general disagreed. "I have been persuaded that that Danziger did not give any benefits to Lahiani when Lahiani was mayor," Weinstein wrote Wednesday. The attorney general determined that a fee Danziger had received as Lahiani's legal counsel in a case involving a business dispute was based on a retainer, and that Danziger had no expectation of receiving any additional payments from Lahiani.
Weinstein also determined that the fact that Danziger did not seek a payment of NIS 68,000 owed him by Tzahov, a company owned by Lahiani, did not constitute a favor to the mayor in exchange for the municipality directing cases to to Danziger's firm.
Weinstein revealed in his statement that he believed the case should be closed for lack of Danziger's culpability, but that State Prosecutor Moshe Lador thought the case should be closed for lack of evidence. Unlike Danziger, Lador believed that the payment to Danziger should not necessarily be construed as a retainer.
"I considered the state attorney's position, and the matter was discussed in quite a few meetings," Weinstein wrote on Wednesday. "However, in the end, this position does not erode the strength of my conclusion that Danziger did not give any favors to Lahiani during Lahiani's term as mayor, and I have not been persuaded that there is a sufficient basis to change my decision on the proper reason for closing the case."
Weinstein added that he believed the agreement between Danziger and Lahiani had been a "retainer arrangement" and not a "temporary retainer arrangement" or one having an "open texture," and that beyond being less common, he did not find that it constituted a basis for evidence of wrongdoing.
"The evidence shows that even if Lahiani had not served in a public position, Danziger would have acted in the same way, and would not have asked for additional payment, or payment of the debt owed him by Tzahov," Weinstein wrote.
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