For the third time in two years, Ronen Ginsburg, CEO of Israeli construction company Danya Cebus, was questioned by police Wednesday — this time in connection with the investigation against MK David Bitan, the former coalition Knesset whip.
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Ginsburg was ordered to remain in custody for six days Wednesday, after police raided Danya Cebus offices early in the morning and detained him for questioning by detectives of the Lahav 433 national crime unit. Police claim Danya Cebus paid hundreds of thousands of shekels in brides to Bitan when he was deputy mayor of Rishon Letzion.
Officials also alleged Wednesday that the closely held supermarket chain Hetzi Hinam covered part of Bitan’s debts in exchange for reductions in municipal taxes and fees in Rishon Lezion. The chain declined to comment.
Police told Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court Judge Amit Michaels that Ginsburg had to remain in custody while they continued the investigation for fear he would try to interfere with it.
Ginsburg’s lawyer, Eitan Maoz, said his client was cooperating. “He never thought he had done anything wrong,” Maoz told the court.
In the end, however, Michaels sided with the police. “After studying the investigative file, I believe that reasonable suspicions exist that connect the suspect with what is alleged,” he said. “It is impossible to ignore the nature of the actions attributed to the suspect and the fact that some of the acts were carried out far from the public eye.”
The investigations come at an awkward time for Danya Cebus and its parent company, Africa Israel Investments. Africa Israel is in the process of being sold by its controlling shareholder, Lev Leviev, as part of a debt bailout (see story below).
Few details about the allegations against Ginsburg were available Wednesday, but police said they believe the bribes were paid not directly to Bitan but rather through a relative of his, Moshe Yosef, who issued fictitious receipts to Danya Cebus.
Yosef began proving detailed testimony to police Tuesday, detailing more than 10 alleged affairs, some them not yet known to the police.
Dubbed “Bitan’s banker,” Yosef is suspected of transferring money over the years the Likud politician used to cover debts. A close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bitan stepped down as coalition whip but remains a Knesset member.
Danya Cebus is one of Israel’s three big construction companies, building homes, offices and factories and infrastructure in Israel, the United States and Romania.
Ginsburg’s arrest was the third time the company has run afoul of the authorities since February 2016 when it was investigated by the Antirust Authority.
Antitrust and Lahav 433 investigators raided Danya Cebus offices and questioned Ginsburg and other employees on suspicions they bribed officials in the Tel Aviv suburb of Shoham and fixed bids for city contracts with other contractors. In June, antitrust officials said they planned to indict Ginsburg subject to a hearing, which was held in November, A final decision hasn’t yet been made.
In September 2016, Ginsburg was questions under warning by police in connection with the collapse of a parking garage under construction by Danya Cebus in Ramat Hahayal that left six dead and 24 injured.
The police are still investigating the causes of the collapse. Part of the case file has already been submitted to the prosecutor’s office, the Justice Ministry said.