Senior executives of two drug companies and former executives of Tnuva are being questioned by police on suspicion of bribing two aides of Yaakov Litzman during his term as health minister. Litzman, who heads the Agudat Yisrael faction of the United Torah Judaism Party, is currently the minister of construction and housing.
The companies are suspected of donating funds to charities connected to Moti Babchik, a close aide to Litzman, and of buying ads in Hamodia, a newspaper affiliated with Agudat Yisrael, to have their products included in the government’s “basket” of subsidized health products and services, or to win favourable treatment concerning product labelling requirements.
Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court Judge Erez Melamed said, “This case touches on the holy of holies. An uncomfortable picture is emerging, to say the least.”
Several suspects in the case were arrested Sunday. Babchik, who has been Litzman’s right-hand man in both the Health Ministry and the Housing Ministry, is suspected of accepting a bribe, fraud and breach of trust; the general manager of Roche Pharmaceuticals Israel, Avi Danziger, is suspect of giving a bribe; the CEO of Policy, Erez Gilhar, is also suspected of bribery. Hamodia journalist and former Litzman aide Menachem Gesheid are suspected of taking a bribe and other offenses.
According to the police, there is no plan to question Litzman at this stage. Litzman said there was nothing to the allegations against Babchik and praised his aide’s “honesty and diligence.”
“I suggest that everyone wait a bit, and they’ll see that everything was done lawfully and following proper administration,” Litzman said, adding: “I am sure that the legal authorities examining the issues will shortly come to these conclusions.”