An aide to Housing and Construction Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) was among four suspects arrested by Israel Police Sunday morning in connection with an investigation into a possible bribery scheme aimed at obtaining favorable food labels for certain products.
The police department’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit arrested the four suspects and transferred them for questioning under warning Sunday. The suspects face claims of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Several others connected with the case were detained for questioning Sunday.
The suspects arrested and questioned under warning include Motti Babchik, an aide to Minister Litzman, police said, along with Erez Gil-Har, the CEO of the Policy lobby company; the manager of a company in the medical industry; and haredi journalist and consultant Menachem Geshaid.
Authorities suspect the four worked together to illegally promote the interests of several large corporations, and repeatedly “took advantage of the position of” one of the four suspects, “totally against the public’s best interests,” police said in a statement.
Among other things, the four are suspected of arranging for the Health Ministry to remove its “red tag” warning labels placed on a number of food products sold by the Tnuva company, Israel’s largest food manufacturer.
It is suspected that Tnuva funneled large sums of money to charitable groups which have connections to Babchik, in exchange for his assistance in having the red labels removed from Tnuva products.
Starting in 2016, under then-Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, the Health Minister began mandating red warning labels on all food products sold in Israel which it deemed to have excessively high levels of saturated fat, processed sugar, or sodium.