Two members of the Ashdod city council and two prominent contractors were arrested yesterday on suspicion of bribery, fraud and money-laundering.
Amram Knafo, the city's deputy mayor and formerdeputy chairman of its planning and building committee, was arrested along with another council member following an undercover investigation that spanned several years. They are suspected of involvement in 12 counts of bribery, money-laundering and fraud between 2005 and 2012.
At least one other council member is expected to be arrested in the near future, also on suspicion of receiving bribes, police sources said.
The two contractors are suspected of bribing the city officials to the tune of hundreds of thousands of shekels in exchange for the officials' help in advancing construction projects.
In one of the 12 cases, according to the few details that emerged at the suspects' remand hearing yesterday, one of the contractors sold a relative of Knafo's an apartment in a building he built at a discount of some NIS 90,000.
That contractor was arrested a few months ago on suspicion of attempted murder, but was later released without being indicted.
Each of the two contractors has recently built projects in Ashdod that are worth hundreds of millions of shekels. The two are involved, among other things, in large real estate projects in the city's marina area. Ashdod is Israel's fifth largest city.
The Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court yesterday extended all four suspects' detentions, with Knafo's remand being extended by eight days.
"Based on the police's suspicions, Ashdod has been plagued with numerous affairs reeking of corruption in recent years," opposition council member Helen Gelber said yesterday. "I call on Mayor Yehiel Lasri to quit, as the one responsible for senior municipal officials' conduct. I also urge the council members involved in these suspicions to quit."