Police Arrest Kfar Sava Mayor of 14 Years for Part in 'Bribery Industry'

City Council member says arrest was only a matter of time and that Kfar Sava has become 'a city of contractors.'

Kfar Sava Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo after being arrested on corruption charges on Monday, February 14, 2017.
David Bachar

Police forces raided the offices of the Kfar Sava municipality Monday, arresting the city's mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo and other senior officials on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The raid follows a two-year-long undercover operation.

Ben-Hamo, who has been Kfar Sava's mayor for 14 years, had his detention extended for a week by the Magistrate Court in Rishon Letzion. His assistant Dothan Hansanson was also arrested, as were four contractors with business interests in the city. The four are suspected of giving bribes and money laundering.

The police wrote in the charge sheet that a "bribery industry" was being operated in the city. They are investigating whether the contractors passed money to the mayor on a regular basis, either in cash-stuffed envelopes worth thousands of shekels or by other means.

The mayor and his assistant purportedly exploited their position to provide the contractors payoffs in the property sector, police said.

During the court hearing, the police representative stated that the findings to date raise serious suspicions, including routine corruption.

Kfar Sava’s general manager Oshrat Ganei-Gonen told the press that she and his staff were surprised to see law enforcement officers arriving at city hall. “We have no details or information regarding the investigation and hope it is all sorted out soon so we can resume our routine,” she said.

The head of the Meretz faction on the city’s council, Ilai Harsegor Hendin, said that “the uncovering of this affair was only a matter of time. Kfar Sava has stopped being a city of its residents and has become a city of contractors. It’s time for a serious sweeping of the stables.”

“This is a sad and difficult day for Kfar Sava," said Yuval Levi, the chairman of the city’s oversight committee. "My heart goes out to the families whose homes were visited by the police and whose members were detained for questioning. No one is guilty until proven otherwise. Some people regrettably got caught up in a difficult situation in an attempt to keep their jobs, and I feel bad for all those people,” he added.

Ben-Hamo's attorney Boaz Ben Tzur said that "there is a huge gap between the rhetoric and the allegations" raised by the police. According to him, there is no evidentiary basis that there is widespread bribery. "The police claims are weak and don't hold water," he said, adding that the police demand to hold his client for longer is unreasonable because there is no concrete concern of possible obstruction of justice.