Likud MK indicted for fraud, bribery

Bitan allegedly accepted some 715,000 shekels ($218,000) in bribes between 2011 and 2017.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Likud MK David Bitan was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, Hebrew language media reported Tuesday night.

“In return for [financial] benefits, Bitan worked to advance [various companies and individuals’] interests…taking advantage of his status, connections and influence in local government and government ministries,” read a statement from Israel’s State Prosecutor.

The indictment came after a six year long investigation of Bitan’s financial activities and an announcement in January 2020 by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that he recommended filing charges against the lawmaker.

Bitan allegedly accepted some 715,000 shekels ($218,000) in bribes between 2011 and 2017.

Some of the charges against Bitan, who was first elected to the Knesset in 2013, date back to his time as deputy mayor of Rishon LeTzion.

In March 2019, the police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit said in a statement that it had interviewed over 300 witnesses regarding Bitan’s alleged illegal activities, and seized about 700 pages of documents from his home and office.

In one specific incident highlighted by the police, Bitan allegedly leveraged his influence as deputy mayor to help real estate developers obtain lucrative municipal tenders for a gas station and another project.

In exchange, Bitan accepted 430,000 shekels ($130,000) from the company.

As a serving parliamentarian, Bitan can file a request for immunity.

However, that request would not be granted for charges that occurred outside of his duty as a Knesset lawmaker.

His attorneys, Dror Matityahu, Sharon Kahana and Ephraim Damari, said in a statement to Ynet that they were looking forward to clearing Bitan’s name in court.

“MK Bitan is confident that at the end of the legal proceedings, the court will reach the obvious conclusion that he has committed no wrongdoing,” the statement red.

The Moroccan-born lawmaker became seriously ill with the coronavirus last year and spent more than two months in the hospital, including several weeks in the intensive care unit.