State accuses Likud MP David Bitan of corruption and fraud

The state prosecutor said on Tuesday he would file an indictment against Likud MP David Bitan for corruption, fraud and breach of trust, as well as money laundering and tax offenses.

Bitan, a former Likud coalition whip and confidant of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is accused of receiving some NIS 715,000 ($ 220,000) in bribes while in public office. He allegedly received bribes from friends and acquaintances and gave them preferential treatment in return, according to the indictment.

The accusations date back to when Bitan was deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion, before being elected to the Knesset in 2013, but also include his term as an MP.

“In return for the benefits, Bitan acted to advance the interests, within the scope of his public office, of certain parties, while exploiting his status, connections and influence within local government and government ministries,” indicates the indictment.

Pursuant to the Knesset Members’ Immunity Act, a copy of the indictment has been submitted to the Speaker of the Knesset in order to enable Bitan to announce whether he wishes to seek parliamentary immunity from the Knesset. lawsuits. The indictment will not be filed in court until the immunity proceedings have been completed.

Police have reportedly investigated the case against Bitan for the past six years and last year recommended that he be charged with multiple bribery charges.

Rishon Lezion’s then mayor Dov Zur arrives for an extension of his pre-trial detention at Rishon Lezion Magistrates’ Court on December 7, 2017 (Avi Dishi / Flash90)

Despite denying any wrongdoing, Bitan resigned as coalition whip in 2017, shortly after the police investigation was announced.

He is accused of receiving bribes from his partner Moshe Yosef and businessman Dror Glazer, both as deputy mayor of Israel’s fourth largest city and later as as a member of the Knesset. Both men testified against him.

Former Tel Aviv deputy mayor Arnon Giladi and then Rishon Lezion mayor Dov Zur are also suspects in the alleged bribery scheme that took place between 2011 and 2017.

Police said last year they had obtained detailed information on how alleged bribes and money transfers were handled, in light of testimony from store owner Yosef furniture where Bitan allegedly received the money.

Arnon Giladi, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv and president of the city’s Likud branch. (Courtesy of Arnon Giladi)

Prosecutors said Bitan was advancing the interests of construction company Danya Cebus by approving real estate deals in Rishon Lezion, in exchange for a cash payment of NIS 430,000 ($ 124,000). The money paid to Bitan was aimed at securing Danya Cebus’s bid to win a municipal tender for the construction of a gas station on the outskirts of the city, as well as the approval of another construction project. outside Jerusalem on Route 38.

They also said they discovered evidence that Bitan and Giladi accepted a bribe of NIS 385,000 ($ 111,000) to obtain building permits for three real estate projects in Tel Aviv. Police said part of the bribes were transferred to Bitan using fake invoices.

The investigation, dubbed Case 1803, saw the arrest of a number of suspects, including city officials from Rishon Lezion, local businessmen and organized crime figures.

Bitan reiterated his denial of wrongdoing on Tuesday, with his lawyers issuing a statement saying he was “confident that at the end of the legal process the court will come to the obvious conclusion that no fault or wrongdoing will occur. is produced in his actions and he of all accusation.

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