Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Among Four Arrested in Corruption Affair Centered on Ex-coalition Whip

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Tel Aviv deputy mayor Arnon Giladi in court, February 4, 2018.
Tel Aviv deputy mayor Arnon Giladi in court, February 4, 2018.Credit: meged gozani

Police arrested four more suspects on Sunday in connection with the alleged corruption affair in the Rishon Letzion municipality, which revolves around MK David Bitan (Likud). The four are suspected of giving and taking bribes.

Among them is Likud activist Arnon Giladi, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, who has been questioned already in the affair on suspicion of involvement in promoting a building project of the real estate developer Dror Glazer.

Giladi is suspected of advancing Glazer’s project to build student dorms at the request of Bitan, a former Rishon Letzion deputy mayor. He allegedly received a bribe to do so, which was allegedly donated to an NGO with which Giladi is associated. Giladi said during questioning that he helped Bitan as he would help any other citizen. However, Moshe Yosef, the key witness in the case, said Giladi took a bribe to move the project ahead. The court extended Giladi’s detention for five days. Giladi has denied taking any money into his own pocket.

Also arrested in the affair is the contractor Beni Sulemani, whose detention was extended for 10 days, and another contractor and prominent lobbyist, on suspicion of giving bribes. Police said they are also suspected of ethical infractions, bribery, money-laundering and tax and VAT offenses.

The latest wave of arrests comes after detailed testimony by key suspects in the case, first and foremost Moshe Yosef, a former close associate of Bitan’s, who has become known as “Bitan’s banker.” Yosef gave the police information about money he received from various businessmen and developers, which he allegedly handed over to Bitan.

Last week Bitan was questioned for the sixth time at the offices of the national fraud squad. The former coalition chairman exercised his right to remain silent, as he did in previous rounds of questioning. Investigators had originally planned to stage a confrontation between Bitan and Yosef, and with other suspects, but did not do so.

Glazer’s testimony to the police uncovered a number of previously unknown cases of suspected fraud, most of which allegedly occurred after Bitan entered the Knesset.

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