MK Bitan's wife questioned in corruption probe
The wife of the coalition chairman, who is suspected of fixing tenders to pay off millions in debt to loan sharks, interrogated for suspected money laundering; she denies the accusations, saying the bank account in question was controlled at the time by her husband.
Hagit Bitan, the wife of Coalition Chairman David Bitan (Likud), who was named a "central figure" in the Rishon LeZion corruption probe, was questioned by the police for the past two days as a possible accomplice to her husband.
Lahav 433 investigators presented her with printouts of her account from the period in which her husband allegedly acted to cover his debts in the gray market, which were estimated in the millions of shekels.
The printouts included deposits at the sum of about NIS 2 million, which were put into the account on different dates some 7-8 years ago.
Hagit claimed that "the person who managed the account is my husband and he transferred the money," as his account was under heavy restrictions at the time due to his debts, adding that while she was aware of movements occurring in the account, she has "no idea" what they were exactly, and that she let her husband use it because she trusted him, and still does.
She then accused the investigators of slandering her husband, noting that they were both "already questioned (about this—ed) in the past and the case has been closed," and asserting they were both innocent.
Hagit was sent to house arrest at her sister's home until Thursday, and was forbidden to speak with her husband for fear of them possibly coordinating their testimonies. She is suspected of money laundering.
Her attorney commented that "the police decided to take revenge on MK Bitan just a moment before he passed the recommendations bill. Why else would they suddenly 'wake up' and decide to investigate cases that were closed in 2010?"
While Bitan is one of the driving forces behind the effort to pass the bill, barring police from making their recommendations on indictments public, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit personally authorized Bitan being questioned and the date of his questioning a month and a half ago. Senior law enforcement officials said in response that there is "no relation between current Knesset efforts to approve the recommendations bill and Bitan being questioned."
On Tuesday night, a local entrepreneur was detained for involvement in the affair. In the early hours of the morning, four more suspects were detained for questioning—two members of a crime organization, a municipality employee and a close associate of Bitan.
Apart from his wife, another confidant of Bitan, yet to be named by the police, has also been interrogated in recent days.
Bitan is expected to arrive tomorrow for further investigation, and the investigators are supposed to confront him with documents that ostensibly strengthen the suspicion that he received money from contractors and businessmen during his tenure as deputy mayor of Rishon LeZion and as a Knesset member.
According to estimates, the police are holding wiretap evidence in which Bitan is heard receiving bribes.
Bitan was in large financial debt and is suspected of, among other things, helping to promote the sale of land in the "Thousand Compound"—a large building complex in the western part of the city—to a businessman in return for him extricating him of his debt.
Lahav 433 detectives in charge of the investigation suspect that the businessman was actually a straw man who represented Hossam Jarushi, a member of the Jarushi crime family who was also arrested in the probe.