Police Arrest Israeli Mayor on Suspicion of Bribery, Fraud

Six weeks after Haaretz investigative report: Miriam Feirberg was grilled by police for hours, and was subsequently detained; she joins four more suspects involved in multimillion-dollar real estate deals in the coastal city.

Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg, July 2016.
David Bachar

Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust after several hours’ grilling by the police fraud squad. Four other suspects involved in multimillion-dollar real estate deals in the coastal city were also detained Tuesday.

Feirberg’s detention was subsequently extended by six days at the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court. 

Earlier Tuesday police detained four more suspects in the Netanya municipality corruption case: a high-ranking city official, two building contractors and an associate of a top city official. Police and tax inspectors raided their homes and offices, while freezing their bank accounts and other assets.

Judge Amit Michles of the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court said that, based on the evidence, top Netanya officials seem to have conspired to promote real estate projects in return for benefits worth millions of shekels. 

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

Superintendent Elisha Kogan, who represented the police in court, said there is reasonable suspicion that Feirberg committed offenses such as taking bribes, fraud and money laundering. Feirberg is suspected, among other things, of taking bribes from contractor and developer Avraham Tshuva, brother of the tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva, he said.

Avraham Tshuva, the mayor’s son Tzafrir Feirberg, attorney Avraham Gugig and architect Gabi Tetro were arrested on Monday. Tzafrir Feirberg and Gugig’s detention was extended for a week, Tshuva’s for three days and Tetro’s for eight.  

Feirberg has been Netanya mayor for nearly two decades.

Feirberg’s former husband, Eli Feirberg, was arrested on suspicion of taking bribes on her behalf for advancing several projects, fraud and money laundering. His detention was extended by six days.

Another suspect in the case, Rabbi Shimon Sher, head of the city’s planning and construction sub-committee, allegedly took bribes in the form of donations. His detention was also extended for six days. A contractor whose name was not released for publication was arrested on suspicion of foul play in a project consisting of a luxury housing complex on the Netanya beach.

At least eight suspects have been arrested since Haaretz published an exposé six weeks ago, questioning Feirberg’s involvement in multimillion-dollar real estate deals. The deals were carried out by Feirberg and her son, together with Tshuva family developers.

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.

Police sources said Tuesday that the investigation is focusing on Avraham Tshuva’s Coral real estate project. Tshuva is an old acquaintance of the mayor, who owns an apartment in the Coral project. The apartment isn’t in her name but in the name of her trustee, Avraham Gugig, who was also one of the project’s lawyers.

Tzafrir Feirberg, the mayor’s son, interned in Gugig’s law firm and owns a penthouse in the luxury T-Tower project, together with Yitzhak Tshuva, the gas tycoon’s nephew. Tetro is the Coral project’s architect.

At the hearing to extend Feirberg’s detention Judge Michles said that the case consists of millions of shekels of perks and acts carried out over many years that were tainted with conflict of interests and intended to conceal. “At the center of the picture there is one suspect,” he said, referring to the mayor.