Former deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, Arnon Giladi, is suspected of taking bribes and using the money to finance a Likud political event in the city, with the participation of party ministers and members of the Knesset.
Police opened the central case against Giladi following evidence brought forward by a suspect in the case of Likud lawmaker David Bitan, who is suspected of accepting hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes. Bitan is allegedly among those who gave bribes to Giladi.
Giladi is a member of the Tel Aviv city council, the only Likud party member of Mayor Ron Huldai’s coalition and the chairman of Igudan, the Dan Regional Association for Environmental Infrastructure.
Real estate developer Dror Glazer is the main witness in the case and provided police with evidence against all the suspects in the case. Glazer said that in the course of his communications with Giladi, the deputy mayor asked him to make a donation of 10,000 shekels ($2,750) to a nonprofit group named “Tzedek Ironi” (Urban Justice).
According to Glazer, Giladi told him that the group is active in south Tel Aviv against illegal immigrants. Police discovered that no such nonprofit group exists and the bank account involved was opened by someone close to Giladi, allegedly to funnel bribe money from businesspeople to the deputy mayor.
Former professional soccer player and businessman Haim Revivo was mentioned among those who contributed to the fake organization, as well as Reuven Lublin, the owner of several large nightclubs in Tel Aviv. Each of them gave 10,000 shekels to the fictitious bank account, with Giladi saying the money was being used to help the residents of south Tel Aviv neighborhoods.
On Thursday, the police recommended indicting Revivo and Lublin for giving bribes to Giladi. According to the allegations, Revivo paid Giladi for preferential treatment regarding a property he owns in Tel Aviv, and Lublin paid Giladi in return for smoothing over proceedings with city hall.
Police suspect that Giladi used some of the money to finance a political event in December 2017, when the investigation against Bitan became public. The event was described as a show of support by the Tel Aviv branch of Likud – headed by Giladi – with the slogan: “The nation wants Likud.” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Haim Katz participated in the event, alongside a large number of Likud Knesset members and activists.
Lublin told Haaretz that he simply donated money to a nonprofit that provided help to the southern part of Tel Aviv. “It’s a nonprofit that deals with all the issues concerning south Tel Aviv, children, young people. I don’t know about infiltrators (African asylum seekers), I have no idea. I didn’t give anything intentionally for anything, I didn’t get anything from Arnon [Giladi],” said Lublin. "This is all nonsense," he added.
Bitan and Giladi allegedly aided Glazer from 2011 through 2017 in receiving permits and approval from the city for three housing projects in Tel Aviv. In return they received 385,000 shekels. Some of the money was laundered through fake bank accounts. For part of this period, Bitan was serving as the coalition whip in the Knesset.
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