Police Recommend Indictment of Ramat Gan Mayor on Bribery Charges

The Israel Police yesterday recommended that Ramat Gan Mayor Zvi Bar be indicted for allegedly accepting bribes from real estate developers. The recommendation followed a two-and-a-half year undercover investigation by the police national fraud squad of Bar and the developers whose interests he is thought to have promoted.

Investigators believe that 100 additional apartments were authorized for construction as part of the Savyon Tower project after the developers paid off Bar. The mayor is also suspected of actively promoting a deal to sell the developers land adjacent to the project at favorable terms.

Bar declined comment yesterday, but the municipality issued the following statement on his behalf: "The police statement is regrettable but it has no significance since the State Prosecutor's Office makes the decisions on the indictment of public figures. We are convinced that after the State Prosecutor's Office receives all the material and studies it the case will be closed without an indictment."

The investigation became public in December 2008. Numerous documents were seized during raids on the homes and offices of suspects. Investigators went to France and Italy to follow the money trail of alleged deposits for Bar in bank accounts in those countries. Police are also checking whether money was deposited for Bar in a front company in Panama.

Police suspect that the bank accounts contain hundreds of thousands of dollars. Police also said they have evidence that Bar broke money-laundering and tax evasion laws.

The State Prosecutor's Office is expected to make a decision as to whether to proceed with an indictment relatively quickly, since the head of the agency's economic crimes division, attorney Avia Elef, has been involved in the investigation from the start and is familiar with the material.

Bar seemed to be conducting business as usual yesterday, smiling as he hosted Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar on a tour of his city's schools.

The police investigation was prompted by a complaint to the national fraud squad from MK Carmel Shama (Likud), a former Ramat Gan City councillor. "Zvi Bar is the head of the snake when it comes to graft in planning and building. He has turned Ramat Gan from a garden city to a city of concrete and towers," Shama said yesterday.