Netanya Graft Case: Judge Orders Mayor’s Son, Tycoon's Brother Into Police Custody

Tzafrir Feirberg, Avraham Tshuva, two others remanded in city corruption scandal; police say mayor to be question under warning.

Attorney Avraham Gugig, Tzafrir Feirberg and Avraham Tshuva at a remand hearing, Sept. 6, 2016.
Moti Milrod

The names of four prominent individuals suspected of corruption in Netanya have been released for publication. They are the mayor’s son, Tzafrir Feirberg; contractor and developer Avraham Tshuva, the brother of the energy tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva; attorney Avraham Gogig and architect Gabi Tetro. Feirberg’s and Gogig’s detention was extended yesterday for a week, Tshuva’s for three days and Tetro’s for eight days.

The police raided the offices of the Netanya municipality on Monday and confiscated documents six weeks after an investigation by Haaretz raised questions about the conduct of Mayor Miriam Feirberg-Ikar over the past two decades.

The main questions in the case involve possible real estate deals worth millions in Netanya in which the mayor and her son were allegedly involved, together with developers from the Tshuva family.

Gogig is the lawyer for the Coral real estate project and a trustee of the Feirberg family. The apartment the Feirberg family owns in the project is registered under his name. Tzafrir Feirberg, who clerked at Gogig’s firm 10 years ago after law school, is joint owner with Yitzhak Tshuva of a penthouse in the luxury T-Tower. Avraham Tshuva is Coral’s developer and a longtime acquaintance of the mayor’s. Tetro is Coral’s architect.

At the remand hearing in the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court yesterday, police said there was a strong suspicion that Avraham Tshuva had acted to obstruct the investigation.

Judge Amit Michles ruling that the evidence indicated that senior officials in the Netanya municipality had conspired with wealthy individuals to promote real estate projects in return for benefits worth millions of shekels.

Police Superintendent Elisha Cogan told the court that an investigation was underway in a number of alleged cases of bribery over the years. “It involves large-scale bribes and clear suspicions of public corruption and damage to public trust,” Cogan said, noting that the investigation had been carried out undercover in its initial stages.

Gogig is considered very close to the mayor and to the Tshuva family. The alleged deal between Feirberg, Gogig and Tshuva began with the purchase of land about a decade ago. In the years that followed the purchase, the District Planning and Building Committee rezoned the land and increased the proportion permissible for construction. The value of Feirberg’s land doubled. Haaretz has in its possession the construction permit that the Coral project eventually received, signed by the mayor herself.

After Tzafrir Feirberg completed his clerkship in Gogig’s firm about a decade ago, he opened his own firm. However his relationship with Gogig apparently continued. Both of their names surfaced in connection with another real estate project on the coastline in Netanya – the Terraces project.

A decade ago there was an elderly people’s assisted-living home on the site, which was to have been replaced by an eight-story building. But the land’s developer, together with a foreign firm, moved ahead with plans to build a much taller, hotel-and-apartment-building there. In 2008, the plans were approved by the District Planning and Building Committee to build a 28-story building with 70 apartments and a hotel.

Gogig was one of the attorneys involved in the deal. He told Haaretz that in his work on the project with the Tourism Ministry, he collaborated with Tzafrir Feirberg and gave him part of his fees. However, the Tourism Ministry said Feirberg’s name does not appear in the project file.

Mayor Feirberg also signed the permits for the construction of the prestigious T-Tower, where her son and Yitzhak Tshuva are joint owners of an apartment. Mayor Feirberg told Haaretz she does not remember when her son told her about the purchase of an apartment in the building. Tzafrir Feirberg declined to disclose how much he had paid for his share in the apartment, which is valued currently at about 2 million shekels (about $530,000).

Tshuva’s attorney, Moti Lazar, told police Superintendent Cogan: “My client was questioned about the matter of a sale of the apartment to a senior municipal official in a prestigious project. This is a deal that did what it did, and you are claiming it’s bribery. But it’s a deal from 10 years ago, an old incident.”

Cogan replied: “The sale was 10 years ago, but the bribery was ongoing. There are a number of issues he was involved in.”

The police said Mayor Feirberg so far has not been questioned, but that she is expected to be questioned under warning, meaning she could face criminal charges.