The police arrested the mayor of Or Akiva, Yaakov Edri, who was formerly a minister, on suspicions of corruption on Tuesday.
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The Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court extended his detention for six days. Another 12 people who are also suspected of criminal acts of corruption were arrested along with Edri. Among those arrested are the former director general of a government ministry, city employees and a businessman.
The police suspect Edri of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust, conspiracy, money laundering, tax offenses and other crimes. He is suspected of promoting the interests of businesspeople in his city in return for various benefits, including in bidding processes and during meetings. In one case, he is suspected of helping to expand a store in return for favors. The businessman who was arrested is suspected of bribing the mayor and other senior city officials.
The police said Edri was suspected of involvement in a number of separate corruption affairs.
Edri has been mayor since 2013 and was also mayor from 1989 to 2003. He served three terms in the Knesset, first as a Likud lawmaker and later for Kadima.
He was a cabinet minister and had four portfolios: In 2006 he was health minister and minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee for three and a half months. In 2006 and 2007 he was the minister who liaised between the cabinet and the Knesset, and in 2007 and 2008 he was the immigrant absorption minister.
Part of the alleged bribes was paid via Orly Yehezkel, who worked for Edri in the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry and was his personal assistant and a close confidant. She is suspected of brokering bribes from businesspeople for Edri, as well as forging documents and other crimes.
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Judge Guy Avnon ruled that the investigative materials provided a reasonable basis for linking Edri to all of the crimes attributed to him. Avnon said that Edri allegedly “heads a criminal hierarchy” and is responsible for a series of crimes carried out over a long period of time. The judge said the evidence seized on Tuesday along with Edri’s statements during questioning “regrettably strengthen some of the suspicions.”
During the court hearing to extend Edri’s detention, it was revealed that the police’s national fraud unit in the Lahav 433 unit has been conducting an undercover investigation of Edri and other senior city officials for about a year. The tax and economic department of the Tel Aviv district of the State Prosecutor’s Office had been accompanying the investigation, as had the authority dealing with money laundering and the financing terror activities in the Justice Ministry.
Yehezkel denies all the accusations. The police detained two of her family members on suspicions of being involved in the crimes. People close to her said the arrests were an attempt to pressure her into testifying against Edri. Her lawyer called the arrest “worthless and outrageous,” and an attempt to make her incriminate an elected official.