Justice Danziger on His Way Back to Bench, as Graft Case Closed

Danziger provided legal services to Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani and to the Bat Yam municipality when Danziger worked as an attorney.

A graft case against Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger should be dropped due to lack of any guilty act, police have recommended, paving the way for his return to the Supreme Court.

Danziger provided legal services to Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani and to the Bat Yam municipality when Danziger worked as an attorney.

Yoram Danziger - Tali Mayer - 20092011
Tali Mayer

The police recommended indicting Lahiani for offenses involving receipt of bribes, fraud and breach of faith. The police also believe there is evidence warranting the prosecution of other senior Bat Yam municipal officials.

Sources in the legal system indicated on Monday that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is likely to accept the police recommendation and close the file against the judge, on grounds of non-guilt. Closure of the file on grounds of lack of evidence would have jeopardized the future of Danziger's career in the Supreme Court.

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.

Lahiani said on Monday in response: "We thank Israel's police for the quiet, speedy investigation and we wish them a happy new year." The Bat Yam municipality said: "The difference between the actual facts and the interpretation given to them by the police is night and day. In contrast to the fervor created by the police during the past three years, the people who head this municipality have acted responsibly, and achieved accomplishments never witnessed before in Israel. We are happy that the case will be relayed to the State Prosecutor's Office, which will relate to it in a professional, responsible and serious manner, without partisanship and with the public interest in view." The municipality added: "After a year of undercover investigation, and another two years of public inquiry, the police have announced that the investigatory materials will be relayed to the State Prosecutor's Office. It is to be regretted that the police have not drawn the requisite conclusions, and have remained confined to a mistaken view that guided the investigation from the start. What we have here is a troubling symptom that impairs the State of Israel's ability to furnish public leadership that seeks real social and economic change. The police's actions deter those who want to play public roles, for the benefit of the citizens of Israel."