The police are seeking to find state witnesses from food giant Tnuva as part a massive corruption investigation into the Israeli company, following the arrest of Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman’s former and current aides.
The investigation is being conducted by the the National Fraud Investigations Unit, and has so far led to several high-profile arrests, including that of Menachem Gesheid, adviser to Litzman during his stint as health minister, and the minister's current aide Moti Babchick.
Investigators believe that Tnuva sought beneficial regulations in exchange for donations it transferred to organizations allegedly linked to Babchick.
The ministerial aide is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for “allegedly acting to promote and preserve the interests of large commercial companies, and taking advantage of his status in direct contradiction to public interests.”
The police are trying to find a state witness from a list of suspects that includes one current and one former senior official at Tnuva, two senior executives at a medical services company, and Erez Gil-Har, the CEO of the "Policy" lobbying firm.
Investigators hope a state witness would be able to provide both concrete evidence connecting the suspects to the case that began in 2017, and assist in uncovering any further public servants who could be involved.
The fraud squad is also investigating whether some of the suspects allowed Tnuva to mislabel its products in violation of a law that obliges food companies to clearly mark products with high levels of sugar, trans fat or sodium.
On Sunday, Tnuva CEO Eyal Malis and his deputy Anat Gross gave testimonies to police, along with other suspects.
Babchick’s lawyers have dismissed the allegations against him.
“Our client is a public servant who dedicates his life to the common good. We are convinced that it will very soon become clear that his actions were righteous and lawful."
Gesheid’s lawyers said: “Our client has acted lawfully and he vehemently rejects the allegations against him.”
Attorney Eyal Basarglik, who represents one of the unnamed suspects, said: “At this stage, our client has only been detained. Although this is a preliminary stage of the investigation, there is no doubt that our client has nothing to do with any criminal offenses.”
Tnuva said in response that it has "acted and is acting in accordance with the law and corporate governance. The company and its managers are cooperating and will cooperate with the investigation as required."