David Bitan
David BitanFlash 90

Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) will be grilled by police on Sunday at the Israel Police Lahav 433 national crime headquarters. Police suspect Bitan of accepting bribes as part of a sweeping investigation that has already snared a number of officials from the Rishon Lezion municipality.

According to reports, Bitan will be questioned about gifts his daughter received at her recent wedding. Police have asked Bitan to hand over the wedding guest list in order to scrutinize how much each guest gave to ensure that inordinately large wedding gifts were not used to launder money.

Bitan had thrown a wedding for his daughter in August which included a star-studded list featuring guests from the top echelons of Israeli society, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, wealthy businessmen, and multiple figures who are ensnared in the investigation together with Bitan. Police suspect that these businessmen gave money to Bitan's daughter under the guise of wedding gifts which subsequently were transferred to the embattled MK.

Police first revealed earlier this month that they had been conducting a secret investigation into Bitan's dealings dating back to when he was Rishon Lezion's deputy mayor. Bitan was interrogated two weeks ago for nearly 14 hours on suspicion of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, and false registration of corporate documents during his tenure as Rishon Lezion's deputy mayor.

The investigation centers over allegations that he accepted bribes while chairing Rishon Letzion's planning committee in order to pay off massive debts he owed to shady loan sharks as a result of his mismanagement of the Rishon Letzion soccer team. A 2016 investigation by Channel 10 revealed that Bitan had owed as much as 6 million shekels, and Bitan has never revealed where he received the money to pay it off.

Channel 10 has reported that police possess a recording of Bitan incriminating himself during a conversation with Rishon Lezion builder Moshe Yosef, who is also a suspect in the case. According to the report, the two can be heard counting money together. The recording came from a bugged piece of furniture from one of Yosef's stores in Rishon Lezion.

In light of the recording, police have been attempting to convince Yosef to become a State's Witness and testify against Bitan.

Other than Bitan, police detained a senior Tel Aviv official, a well-known contractor, and two representatives of Likud in Rishon Lezion. A parliamentary aide to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz was also detained in the probe.

Police also investigated Bitan in 2010 over allegations that building contractors paid his debts in return for city contracts, but the case was closed without charges.

Last week Bitan resigned as coalition chairman in order to fight the allegations and was replaced by MK David Amsalem (Likud).