Senior Officials of Central Israeli City Arrested on Suspicion of Bribery

The 10 people arrested are suspected of accepting illicit benefits in exchange for granting building permits to contractors

Headquarters of the Israel Police's anti-fraud investigation unit, known as Lahav 433, May 2016.
Nir Keidar

Police arrested several senior officials of the Beit Shemesh municipality Sunday night on suspicion of taking bribes and other offenses.

Altogether, 10 people were arrested, some of whom are suspected of accepting various illicit benefits in exchange for granting building permits to contractors. The main suspicions relate to a large real estate project run by one of the city’s Hasidic courts, which obtained construction permits even though the project is slated to be built on land zoned for public use. Police also raided the suspects’ homes and offices.

The Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court ordered one key suspect, Moshe Montag, held without bail until Thursday. Montag, who has chaired the town’s planning and building committee for decades, recently surprised local political circles by announcing his resignation.

Montag’s departure is just one of several major personnel changes at the municipality recently. A few months ago, for instance, city engineer Danny Tzarfati also announced his surprise resignation after more than 20 years on the job.

Sunday’s arrests were the fruit of a long-running undercover investigation run jointly by the police’s economic crimes unit and the Israel Tax Authority. The state comptroller has also been investigating the matter over the past few months, and senior municipal officials have given statements on the matter.

Aside from bribery, police are investigating the suspects for fraud, breach of trust and tax offenses.