A number of former and current aides of Minister Yaakov Litzman were arrested Sunday as part of a massive corruption investigation into the Israeli food processing giant Tnuva.
The police’s Lahav 433 National Fraud Investigations Unit said they arrested nine people in total as part of the investigation, which began in 2017.
Among the suspect were arrested are Menachem Gesheid, who was advisor to Litzman during his time as health minister, and Moti Babchick who is Litzman's current advisor.
Additional suspects include one current and one former senior official at Tnuva, two senior executives at a medical services company, as well as Erez Gil-Har - CEO of lobbying company “Policy.”
The police allege that Tnuva requested regulatory benefits in exchange for donations transferred to organizations that could be tracked back to Babchick. He 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 stark contrast to public interest.”
Lahav is also investigating whether some of the suspects allowed Tnuva to mislabel its products, and thus break the law that obligates companies to label food products that have high levels of sugar, trans fat or sodium.
Babchick’s lawyers dismissed the accusations. “Our client is a public servant who dedicates his life for the common good. We are convinced that very soon it will be clarified that his actions were righteous, and lawful."
Gasheid’s lawyers said: “Our client has acted lawfully and he vehemently rejects the suspicions allegedly attributed to 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.”
The police said: "During the arrests, searches were carried out at several addresses in addition to the suspects' homes and offices. The investigation is being conducted by the Israel Police and accompanied by the economic department at the State Attorney's Office."