City Officials, Developers in Ashdod Charged With Taking, Giving Bribes

Defendants include a vice mayor, two former councillors and 18 contractors and companies

Amram Knafo, in a photograph from March 2012.
Moti Milrod

A vice mayor and two former members of Ashdod’s city council were charged on Wednesday with taking bribes from 18 building contractors and companies.

Vice Mayor Amram Knafo allegedly received 240,000 shekels (over $65,000) in bribes and an option to purchase a building lot from contractor Yehiel Abu.

Former city council member Yitzhak Dery was charged with taking more than 2.5 million shekels in bribes, while former councilman Shlomo Elbaz was accused of taking a bribe in the form of a 150,000 shekel loan from contractor Yehuda Amsili.

Knafo had previously served as deputy mayor, a member of the urban construction committee and head of the city’s welfare administration; since 2008 he has been vice mayor.

According to the prosecution, since February 2009, Knafo replaced Mayor Yehiel Lasry in most discussions by the “committee of two” that was the licensing authority that evaluated requests for building permits, and periodically also replaced the mayor at planning and building committee meetings, in those cases serving as chairman of the committee.

The other accused include contractors Claude Nahmias, Yitzhak Hadad, Gilad Primak, Shimon Gozlan and Herzl Shimriz, together with Amsili and Abu. In addition to filing charges, the prosecution also submitted a request to confiscate property and funds from the accused totaling 40 million shekels.