Leading real estate developer held in corruption probe

Developers are supected of bribing Rishon LeZion and Rehovot municipal officials.

One of Israel's largest real estate developers, who is a member of a well-known family of developers, was arrested today by the police on suspicion of involvement in a corruption case involving developers and senior municipal officials in Rishon LeZion and Rehovot.

Other well-known contractors have also been arrested, along with a well-known attorney who provides services to the Rishon LeZion Municipality and the Rehovot Municipality. The attorney is considered the main suspect at the center of the axis of corruption.

Altogether, nine suspects have been arrested or detained for questioning in the case.

This morning, the police permitted for publication that Lahav Unit 433 has for several months been investigating suspicions of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering, and violations of municipal ordinances by several suspects. The police say that the findings of the investigation so far indicate suspicions that, in several cases, the lawyer received benefits in exchange for using his authority to advise planning and building commissions to approve exceptions and promote the interests of developers and associates, and that he acted in conflict of interests.

This afternoon, the suspects were brought before the Kfar Saba Magistrates Court to extend their remand.

Sources also inform ''Globes'' that one of the suspects in the case is a former senior Rishon LeZion municipal official, who is now a senior official at another large municipality. Rishon LeZion's mayor in 1983-2008 was Meir Nitzan, who was succeeded in 2008 by Dor Tzur.

The Rishon LeZion Municipality said today that the case involves events that occurred before Tzur took up office. "This is an investigation into events that occurred more than a decade ago, and not recent events," said the municipality. "The Rishon LeZion Municipality is helping the police investigators, and will provide them everything they need to reach the truth. The Rishon LeZion Municipality operates transparently and professionally, and will continue to do so in the future."

Rehovot's mayor since 2009 has been Rahamim Malul. The Rehovot Municipality said that it had terminated relations with the attorney who has been arrested in the case because of the handling of a prominent real estate project in the city.

The law office of the arrested lawyer said, "We trust the authorities to carry out a rapid and thorough investigation, and there is no doubt that when it is completed, the unequivocal conclusion will be that the lawyer acted legally and that his conduct is beyond reproach."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 3, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

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