Police Recommend Indicting Likud Lawmaker and Netanyahu Confidant for Bribery

David Bitan allegedly took hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes when he was deputy mayor of Rishon Letzion, also suspected of money laundering and breach of trust

David Bitan at the Likud campaign launch in Ramat Gan, March 4, 2019.
Moti Milrod

The police recommended indicting Likud lawmaker David Bitan for bribery on Thursday morning. The investigation is expected to continue until the April 9 election, after which the case and its evidence will be transferred to the prosecution.

At the center of the investigation are alleged reciprocal connections that Bitan forged in the past with business figures who are linked to covering debt that Bitan amassed while he served as deputy mayor of Rishon Letzion. Bitan is suspected of collecting hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes from businesspeople through his close associate Moshe Yosef, who has turned state's evidence.

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Police are also expected to announce that there is evidence that Bitan was involved in other crimes, among them breach of trust, taxes and money laundering. As such, they have brought on another figure to turn state's evidence in an additional affair.

The central crime being investigated involves Bitan receiving bribes from members of Jarushi crime family, through Yosef, in exchange for advancing building projects on their behalf in Rishon Lezion. Yosef refuted this charge, though he testified against Bitan on other matters.

In his testimony, Yosef described how he transferred money to Bitan. He and Bitan would meet in a store and stand close together in a corner. Yosef would take a wad of cash from his pocket – between five and ten thousand shekels (about $1,000 to $3,000) – and transfer it surreptitiously into Bitan's pocket. According to Yosef, he transferred bribes to Bitan this way for nearly five years

Bitan responded to these reports on Tuesday evening: "There's no decision, it's an information leak. From the first day of the investigation, the police said that this would be their recommendation. Then what are you investigating?" 

Speaking on Kan Bet television network, Bitan's lawyer, Ephraim Dimri, said on Thursday that the state's witnesses are problematic and insisted that Bitan's version of events be heard.

"[Bitan] gave his version of events to police, and we will our version of events to the court as well, if there is a hearing. And I believe that if there is a hearing, the case will be closed… I won't get into the details of the case, certainly not at this stage, but I can tell you: [Bitan] has a good answer [to the accusations] and substantiating documents for his claims," he said.

"We trust in the Israeli system of law and justice to fairly carry out this process, and are glad that we will be heard out," he added.