Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein cleared Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger of graft charges on Wednesday, over alleged links to embroiled Bat Yam Mayor Shlomi Lahiani.
In his published conclusion, Weinstein closed Danziger's case on grounds of non-guilt, and stated that the evidence presented to him proved the justice did not give benefits to Lahiani during the latter’s tenure as mayor. Closure of the file on grounds of lack of evidence would have jeopardized the future of Danziger's career in the Supreme Court.
The police have recommended indicting Lahiani for offenses involving receipt of bribes, fraud and breach of faith.
Police investigators in this case encountered a murky picture in which borders between the private and public spheres were blurred during Lahiani's term. Under his leadership, the municipality allegedly turned into an apparatus that attended to his own personal matters.
The Bat Yam investigation was launched undercover in 2007, and became a publicly visible inquiry in 2009. As part of the investigation, 20 suspects were interrogated, and testimony was taken from hundreds of individuals connected to the affair.
While dealing with over 20 suspected instances of criminally fraudulent activity, the investigation focused on the conferral of a personal bank loan to the mayor. Lahiani is said to have repaid the loan via family relations and associates in monthly cash installments.
Some people who allegedly took loans for the mayor had earlier worked on Lahiani's campaign staff in Bat Yam's mayoral race. After his election, these people won appointments to top positions in the municipality, while their predecessors in these posts were fired.
Police said that Lahiani received loans worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from business owners in Bat Yam, including the owner of a chain of grocery stores. In exchange, it is said that these loan-givers received favors related to building and zoning issues, or that the municipality refrained from enforcing various regulations relating to their line of work.
Police investigators substantiated allegations that Lahiani directed that municipality accounts be opened at the Union Bank of Israel, at a time when he was negotiating with the bank about his private debts. The mayor allegedly concealed his private matters at the bank from associates in the municipality.
With regard to Danziger, the police focused on the period when he served as an attorney before being appointed to the bench. During this period, Danziger provided legal services to Lahiani free of charge; in exchange, Lahiani made sure that Danziger's firm was engaged on various matters by the Bat Yam municipality. Danziger earned more than NIS 800,000 for services rendered by his firm to the town.
With regard to the engagement of Danziger's firm by the Bat Yam municipality, police investigators originally indicated there was insufficient evidentiary foundation to prosecute the judge; but police eventually decided to close the investigation of Danziger in this respect also due to lack of suspicion of criminal activity.
The police also investigated suspicions concerning services rendered by Danziger on behalf of Lahiani with the Union Bank. With regard to allegations concerning the bank, investigators decided to drop the case against Danziger due to lack of guilt.
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