Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger will be questioned under caution about his ties to Bat Yam Mayor Shlomi Lahiani, who is facing possible corruption charges, it was confirmed Monday.
This is the first time in Israel's history that police will interrogate a Supreme Court justice under caution. Being questioned under caution is an indication that a person is viewed as a suspect rather than simply as a source of information.
Danziger has advised Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch that he will take a leave of absence from the court until the investigation about his links to Lahiani is completed. Danziger has been questioned in the Lahiani case twice before, but on those occasions he was not treated as a suspect. It is not certain that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will ultimately decide that Danziger must face criminal charges.
It does appear, however, that a recommendation will be issued to indict a number of Bat Yam city officials on criminal charges. Mayor Lahiani is being investigated on suspicion of corruption including bribery.
Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, Danziger was Lahiani's personal lawyer for more than 20 years and questions have been raised about their joint business dealings and work that Danziger's former law firm did for the Bat Yam municipality.
The case against Lahiani centers around allegations that nine city officials took out personal loans of NIS 50,000 each, allegedly to cover Lahiani's personal debts, in return for which the employees are alleged to have received preferential treatment as municipal employees.
A police investigative report on the case also alleges that senior municipal officials systematically turned a blind eye for years to irregularities involving business licensing and planning and building procedures involving Lahiani's associates, in addition to appointments made by the city without proper public tender procedures.
In recent weeks, Weinstein and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador were provided with findings linking Danziger to the Lahiani investigation, prompting police to question the Supreme Court justice again, this time under caution.
Yesterday, Weinstein's office issued a statement saying that "clarifications" were required regarding Danziger's account of the circumstances under which his law firm at the time was hired by Bat Yam city hall, and with respect to Danziger's legal services to Lahiani and the "propriety of this relationship." Weinstein stressed that when the investigation is concluded, he intends to expedite the handling of the matter so that he can finalize his stance on the case.
Danziger's attorneys, Ram Caspi and Reuven Bahar, have recently been in touch with the offices of the attorney general and state prosecutor in an effort to show that there is no substance to the suspicions against the justice.
Senior staff at Lador's office, including Lador himself, are determined to proceed, however, and Lador believes that despite the significance of investigation of a Supreme Court justice, there is no choice but to do so in this instance.
Court sources have said it appears that Danziger chose to take a leave from the court while the investigation continues because he preferred the option to being suspended from his position as justice by Beinisch. Weinstein has been keeping Beinisch informed of developments in the case.
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