Senior Tel Aviv Municipality Official Set to Be Indicted on String of Corruption Charges

Head of the building permits department is set to be charged with a string of offenses including bribery, breach of trust and conspiracy.

A senior official of the Tel Aviv municipality building permits department is expected to be indicted in the next few months, together with his son, his nephew, a prominent businessman, and a lawyer - all suspected of taking part in one of the largest corruption affairs in recent years.

Shota Hovel, head of the municipality department for the past 22 years, is set to be charged with a string of offenses including bribery, breach of trust and conspiracy. The offenses relate to his issuing of permits for construction or for changes to a building in seven cases.

As a four-year investigation unfolded, police discovered and examined properties worth millions of shekels held by Hovel and his family.

Hovel's 27-year-old son, Shai, is suspected of breach of trust and accepting bribes. Hovel's nephew, attorney Yossi Chen, is suspected of fraud, breach of trust and conspiracy. Further indictments involving similar charges are expected to be brought against another attorney, Eitan Segal, and businessman Yair Tzabari, owner of the Tzapari bird park at the heart of Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park.

The corruption scandal was revealed four years ago when Hovel was first arrested. Still, in spite of the suspicions, he continued to hold his post, and is expected to retire November 1. Shortly after his retirement he is to be summoned to several hearings at the State Prosecutor's Office.

The police completed its investigation almost two years ago, but the State Prosecutor's Office requested more evidence and data. Later, the decision to indict was delayed again because two of the suspects are attorneys, thus requiring the approval of the State Attorney's Office.

Tzabari and Shai Hovel were first arrested before the municipal elections in 2008. Tzabari, who was a candidate in the Tel Aviv elections, was suspected of mediating between several real estate entrepreneurs and senior officials in the municipality in acquiring illegal building and business permits. Shai Hovel was also a candidate in these elections - No. 2. on the Green Party's list in the Holon municipality.

All suspects deny all charges against them.