Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will decide shortly whether to allow the police to interrogate Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger under caution, in connection with an ongoing investigation against Bat Yam mayor Shlomi Lahiani and other senior city officials on suspicion of corruption, including bribery. If it is decided to question Danziger under caution - meaning that he is being warned that he is being treated as a suspect - he would be immediately suspended from his court post.
In January, Weinstein gave the police permission to take testimony from Danziger regarding the Bat Yam case. The police questioned the Supreme Court justice on two occasions in his court chambers, but not as a suspect. Now case investigators from the National Economic Crime Unit believe there is justification to question Danziger again under caution as a suspect, in light of findings they have made about his alleged ties to Mayor Lahiani.
The case involves allegations that nine city officials each took out personal loans of NIS 50,000 - allegedly to cover Lahiani's personal debts - in return for which the employees were alleged to have received preferential treatment as municipal employees. Most of the employees are said to have confirmed this to investigators, but Lahiani has said the employees were approached for the loans at the initiative of one of his assistants and not by the mayor himself.
The police initially approached Weinstein at the end of last year for his consent to launch an investigation involving Danziger and the law firm that he headed, before his appointment to the Supreme Court, and the work they did for the Bat Yam municipality.
The police were interested in the circumstances under which Danziger, who served as Lahiani's personal lawyer for 20 years, worked as a lawyer on an ongoing basis for the municipality, too. The connection with Lahiani earned Danziger's firm NIS 823,000, paid by the municipality.
Police investigators are also looking into Danziger's involvement in a local Bat Yam periodical, "Gal Gefen Tzahov," in which Danziger and his former law partner, Dori Klagsbald, held a 45 percent interest in trust. The shares in the publication were being held on behalf of Lahiani, who is suspected of directing more than NIS 280,000 in municipal funds to the periodical through advertising published on behalf of the municipality.
Danziger and Lahiani had close ties, including a joint interest in a land deal in the western part of Netanya. As part of the transaction, they demanded compensation from the Israel Lands Administration for a zoning change. It was found that Lahiani acquired the land in 1995 in trusteeship for Danziger, for Danziger's former law partner Klagsbald and a development firm in which Lahiani had an ownership interest.
Lahiani had extensive contacts with the Israel Lands Administration over the rezoning issue, but the ILA insisted his claim for damages did not meet the relevant criteria. In 2007, Danziger, Klagsbald and the development firm, S.A.N.L. Promoting and Development, sued the ILA over the issue, claiming that Lahiani was holding the land in trust for them. For its part, the ILA said that until the middle of 2007, the trusteeship - purportedly dating back to 1995 - went undisclosed. The agency demanded trust documents and tax reports on the property, but the claimants, including Danziger, contended that there was no obligation to disclose it earlier.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now