Israel Police Recommend Indicting Netanya Mayor Over Bribery, Fraud

Miriam Feirberg was arrested after Haaretz published an exposé questioning her involvement in multi-million-dollar real estate deals together with her son.

Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg.
Nimrod Glickman

The Israel Police recommended indicting Netanya mayor Miriam Feirberg on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust on Tuesday. The allegations concern seven large real estate projects in the city.

The police also recommended indicting her ex-husband, Eliyahu Feirberg, for attempting to receive a bribe for one of the projects; and her son Tzafrir Feirberg for bribery related to five of the real estate projects.

The police also recommended indicting Avraham Gugig, a lawyer closely connected to the Feirberg family, for bribery; and former Netanya city engineer Paul Vital for breach of trust.

Contractor and developer Avraham Tshuva, brother of gas tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva, is suspected of offering bribes, while other developers are suspected of similar offenses.

Some of those involved are also suspected of tax evasion and other financial crimes, and indictments for these alleged crimes are being handled separately by the tax authorities for now.

The police have passed the investigative materials in the cases on to the economic crimes department of the State Prosecutor’s Office, which will make the final decision on issuing indictments.

Feirberg’s lawyers said the police’s recommendations, whatever they may be, have no legal standing. She is convinced that in the end the prosecutors will close the case without charges, and she will continue to serve the residents of Netanya faithfully, as she has for the last 18 years, said her lawyers. Tzafrir Feirberg’s lawyers said he too expects the case will end without any charges.

The Movement for Quality Government called on Feirberg to suspend herself temporarily from office, until a decision is made about an indictment. For now, the benefit of the investigation and the public require her suspension temporarily to allow the city to function properly, said the Movement.

Feirberg was arrested in September and was banned from work and entering city hall until the the end of November. She was permitted during that period to be in continuous touch with the municipality’s general manager to ensure the proper management of the city, but she did not come to her office.

Feirberg, along with the other members of her family, was arrested a month and a half after Haaretz published an exposé questioning her involvement in multimillion-dollar real estate deals together with her son, and Tshuva family developers. They denied committing any crimes.

The exposé examined the Feirberg family assets in construction projects headed by contractors from the Tshuva family and looked into the conduct of top city officials. Haaretz found that Feirberg had signed construction permits for projects in which she and her son owned assets.

During the investigation, a picture of widespread criminal activity by the mayor and her family in a number of cases was pieced together. They acted with a systematic and structured method of bribery, said the police in their announcement of the recommendation to indict the suspects.