Afula mayor Yitzhak Meron was arrested Monday on suspicion of taking 4 million shekels ($1 million) for the city, in return for making a Yisrael Beiteinu city councillor his deputy.
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Deputy mayor Boris Yodis was also arrested, as the allegations of bribery and corruption involving Yisrael Beiteinu officials continue to mount. Both Meron and Yodis were remanded for three days by the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court on Monday. Police from the National Fraud Squad raided offices at Afula city hall, in the Jezreel Valley, and searched the suspects’ homes.
Rami Tayeb, a political adviser to Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, was also arrested Monday on suspicion of bribery and fraud. He is suspected of helping arrange the government funding in return for Yodis’ appointment.
David Godovsky, a former Yisrael Beiteinu official, was also arrested Monday and remanded for three days. He is also suspected of helping arrange for government funds to go to the Afula municipality, although some of the funds were allegedly meant to find their way back to himself and Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum, who was questioned again on Monday for several hours. Kirshenbaum later announced that she is to retire from politics.
Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court Judge Menahem Mizrahi said during Godovsky’s remand hearing, “There is evidence that speaks for itself. This is a new investigation that expands on a previous investigation, which requires letting the investigating unit complete it. The suspect is invoking his right to remain silent, that’s his right, but it requires the investigating unit to execute procedures to get at the truth.”
Meron was elected as Afula mayor in October 2013, defeating former mayor Avi Alkabetz by a narrow margin. Meron was first elected mayor in 1998 and reelected in 2003. However, he resigned in 2005, citing personal reasons. Alkabetz, who had been city manager under Meron, replaced him and was reelected in his own right in 2008.
Last week, a police source involved in the Yisrael Beiteinu probe said investigators have so far confiscated between 25 million to 30 million shekels from various suspects. The source said the amount of money seized testifies to the huge scope of the case, in which public funds were allegedly transferred to nonprofit associations and individuals in return for kickbacks and other favors. Police say more arrests are expected.