Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Can't Keep Post After Court Ruling

Wolloch was convicted of fraud and breach of trust among other charges; he helped a Moldovan woman obtain a visa to Israel.

The Tel Aviv District Court ruled yesterday that the offenses for which Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Nathan Wolloch was convicted of last year were tainted with moral turpitude and corruption. Wolloch will not be able to continue to serve in his post following the ruling.

A year ago, Wolloch was convicted of fraud and breach of trust among other charges. From 1999 to 2001 he registered a Moldovan woman, Anastasia Babkina, for courses provided by the city of Tel Aviv, and fraudulently helped her to obtain a visa to Israel. He did so for the late businessman Reuven Gross, who was having an affair with the woman.

wolloch - Moti Kimche - June 21 2011
Moti Kimche

Gross had been facing several charges of using improper means to win municipal tenders to operate parking lots, such as using insider information he received from workers of Ahuzot Hof, the municipal parking-lot company. But the proceedings against Gross were halted when he died three years ago.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court sentenced Wolloch to five months in prison and 200 hours of community service, but ruled his offenses did not involve moral turpitude. The prosecution appealed this ruling, while Wolloch appealed the conviction.

The District Court yesterday upheld the conviction and said Wolloch had abused his authority as deputy mayor to mislead a state authority. Judges Dvora Berliner, George Kara and Miriam Sokolov said it was especially grim "that the appelant helped to bypass a legal state demand, by giving preference on the basis of personal relations...this [practice] is a plague in Israel and the court must denounce it unequivocally."

The judges criticized the lower court ruling that Wolloch's straying from the norm was "not cardinal," saying he had caused damage to the authorities, the public trust and even potentially to state security.

Public officials are supposed to make sure that permits, licenses etc. are issued by law, not by means of "ploys of people with connections," they said.

They said Wolloch's abuse of his public position to issue the letters [inviting the Moldovan woman] had a "dimension of corruption."

They said public morality and hygiene require accepting the state's appeal, although it means ending Wolloch's public career.