Police Recommend Prosecution of Three Israeli Mayors on Corruption Charges

Ramat Gan Mayor Yisrael Zinger, Zichron Yaakov Mayor Eli Abutbul and Hatzor Haglilit Local Council chairman Shimon Suissa are accused in separate cases.

From left, Ramat Gan Mayor Yisrael Zinger, Hatzor Local Council Chairman Shimon Suissa and Zichron Yaakov Mayor Eli Abutbul.
Nir Keidar, Gil Eliahu and Yoav Etiel

The Israel Police have recommended the criminal prosecution of three of the country’s mayors – Ramat Gan Mayor Yisrael Zinger, Zichron Yaakov Mayor Eli Abutbul and Hatzor Haglilit Local Council chairman Shimon Suissa – on charges that include bribery, fraud, breach of trust and issuing threats. The cases of the three mayors are separate.

After a lengthy investigation, police believe there are grounds for filing bribery and conflict of interest charges against Zinger and Amnon Botz, Ramat Gan’s deputy director general for administration and culture. The two are accused of promising jobs and contracts to activists and suppliers who helped Zinger win the mayoralty in 2013 – as well as acting on those promises.

“From the investigation materials it emerges that during the local council elections in 2013, Zinger promised benefits to activists and service providers who helped him during his election campaign, either for pay or for free,” the police wrote in their conclusions.

“In this context, Zinger promised the activists and service providers that after the elections they would be appointed to positions in the municipality or in agencies connected to it, or they would be chosen to execute projects for the city and its institutions. It emerges that after Zinger was elected, he and Botz, his right-hand man during the elections, worked to keep those promises and find jobs and contracts for the activists and the suppliers,” and in several cases actually did so.

Zinger’s lawyer Yinnon Sartel said that "the mayor welcomes the end of the investigation, which began a year-and-a-half ago and was accompanied by baseless reports and claims regarding suspicions of bribery, money laundering, fraud, tax offenses and so on.”

Ilan Assayag

“The announcement by the police shows that the investigation found these claims to be baseless.

“It’s important to remember that the only party authorized to decide on whether to prosecute is the prosecution and not the police, and we are certain that it will decide there’s nothing to this suspicion either and the case will be closed.”

The police also claimed to have evidence of alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust by Suissa of Hatzor Haglilit, who allegedly received election contributions from a local businessman in return for favors relating to his business.

“We have just received the announcement that the investigation file has been submitted to the prosecution,” said Suissa’s attorneys. “We believe that after examination of the material, it will be concluded that there’s no place for an indictment and that there isn’t enough of an evidentiary basis to the allegations.”

In the case of Abutbul from Zichron Yaakov, police said they had found evidence of the use of threats and other offenses.

“From the investigation it emerges that the council head threatened a local businessman that he would harm him by refusing to advance his interests – and harming his interests – allegedly because of his objection to a project that the council wanted to advance,” the police said.

Abutbul told Haaretz that he was saddened by the police decision, but respects it. “It all boils down to a phone call 14 months ago in which I got upset by the activities of this person, a hotel manager, who behind our backs, even as he was working with us to build dozens of hotel rooms, was working to harm young couples in our village.”

He added that he had apologized for that conversation and didn’t think he would be questioned by police over it. “We certainly weren’t talking about a personal threat, but a threat to his business,” he said, adding that when he met with prosecutors he believed he could convince them to close the case.