The businessman David Appel was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and fined NIS 1 million yesterday in Tel Aviv District Court, following his conviction for paying NIS 1.4 million in bribes to public officials in an effort advance his business interests.
The public officials involved were former Lod mayor Benny Regev and former Givat Shmuel council head Zamir Ben-Ari, as well as Oded Tal, a senior official at the Israel Lands Administration.
Appel's company was also fined NIS 500,000.
Regev, who was convicted of taking a bribe, was also sentenced yesterday, as was Benny Tavin, who had handled Appel's financial affairs and was convicted of serving as a middleman in the bribery.
Regev was sentenced to an 18-month jail term. The court ruled that his offense involved moral turpitude, which would bar him from holding public office for a considerable period, but did not impose a fine because of his poor financial situation. Tavin was sentenced to two years in prison and given a NIS 50,000 fine.
Tal, the ILA official, was convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to three years in prison for accepting a bribe.
The court convicted Appel of paying about NIS 1.3 million in 1998 to Regev's electoral campaign as a candidate for Lod mayor in an effort to advance his real estate interests in that city. He was similarly convicted of paying about NIS 95,000 to Ben-Ari's campaign to lead the Givat Shmuel council and of concealing the payments through false invoices. Ben-Ari was not charged in connection with the affair.
At the time, Appel was seeking to develop a shopping mall, a recreation club and a light-rail project in Lod and to annex land to the city from Moshav Ginaton. He also sought to change the zoning of land in Givat Shmuel so that 2,000 housing units could be built there instead of the 370 for which it had been zoned.
The prosecution had sought stiffer punishments against the defendants. With respect to Appel, the sentencing judges wrote that they took a number of factors into account, including the long passage of time since the offenses were committed as well as Appel's age, state of health and his previously clean criminal record - without which they said they would have imposed a harsher sentence. The court rejected Appel's contention that he was a victim of a witch hunt on the part of law enforcement officials.
Attorneys for the defendants asked that the imposition of the sentences be suspended until appeals could be filed, but the court ordered the defendants to jail on September 2. Until then, the defendants are barred from leaving the country and are required to post bond.
After the hearing, Appel's lawyer said his client's chances of success on appeal are excellent.
The prosecution said it would study the case and consider further steps in light of the considerably lighter punishment the defendants received than what they had sought.
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