'Weinstein set to drop Lieberman bribery charge'

By RON FRIEDMAN, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
February 18, 2011 05:21

Charges against FM to include fraud, breach of trust, money laundering, obstruction of justice but not bribery, 'Globes' report says.

2 minute read.



Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (AP).

Lieberman 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein is expected to announce in the coming days that his office has decided to drop the bribery charge from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s upcoming indictment, Globes reported Thursday.

Lieberman’s new indictment sheet will include charges of fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and obstruction of justice, according to the report.

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However, a Justice Ministry spokesman denied that a decision had been reached.

The final decision on the indictment, following a hearing, is expected before the end of the month and after a series of meetings at the Attorney- General’s Office that are set to take place next week.

According to Globes, one of the greatest difficulties expected upon publication of the indictment is explaining the decision to drop the bribery charge, which is considered by many the most severe and which carries a sentence of seven years in jail. However, sources in the Justice Ministry reportedly consider the breach of trust charge, which carries a sentence of three years, the more severe when it comes to public officials.

The prohibition against bribery is meant to prevent conflict of interest in a public official, which in turn prevents breach of trust.

During the past few weeks, top Justice Ministry officials have been holding full-day meetings about the Lieberman case, discussing its strengths and weaknesses. Possible reasons for dropping the bribery charges include the difficulty of subpoenaing witnesses, as many of them reside abroad, and the difficulty of obtaining physical evidence of the receivers’ intent to commit the offense.

The most recent investigation into Lieberman’s case began in 2006. On August 2, 2009, police handed over the evidence it had gathered on the Lieberman investigation to the state prosecution, with a recommendation to indict him.

Police suspect that Lieberman obtained NIS 10 million, which was funneled through six to eight straw companies.

These acts allegedly occurred while he served as transportation minister, national infrastructures minister and strategic affairs minister.

Lieberman is suspected of having received an illegal tip-off from Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben- Aryeh, in 2008, allegedly allowing him to subvert the investigation process under way at that time. Police were investigating allegations that Lieberman had accepted bribes and failed to report income to the tax authorities.

Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen denied that any decision had been reached regarding the Lieberman indictment.

“The attorney-general has yet to reach a decision in the matters pertaining to Avigdor Lieberman,” he said. “When a decision is made, it will be announced properly. Until then, any reports regarding the decision are the responsibility of their publishers.”

Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.


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