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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bentzi Lieberman, director of the Israel Lands Authority, and former National Religious Party MK Nahum Langenthal were named on Saturday as the two people police questioned last week in a corruption probe at the authority.
The two were brought in for questioning on Thursday on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust.
Police said the investigation has been in progress for more than six months and focuses on “several cases in which the official violated conflict of interest regulations in dealing with cases that were brought to his attention.” The suspicions mainly revolve around decisions made regarding a particular real estate company Lieberman had ties with and several projects the firm had been involved in.
Langenthal, now an attorney, is suspected of similar conflict of interest violations for aiding Lieberman. Lieberman, who was appointed director of the Israel Lands Authority in September 2011, was formerly the chairman of the Judea and Samaria Regional Council and CEO of a movement that engaged in providing housing for evacuees of Gush Katif.
Keren Koren, one of the attorneys representing the former MK, said she will not comment on an ongoing investigation, but emphasized, nonetheless, that the case does not involve bribery allegations, as had been reported earlier.
Both suspects were questioned under caution by police about the alleged breach of trust on Thursday, shortly after detectives executed a search warrant, including confiscating documents, at the authority’s Jerusalem office.
The investigation has been carried out in collaboration with the attorney-general and the State Prosecutor’s Office since it began, police said on Thursday.
“The new affair at the Israel Lands Authority proves what we’ve been saying for many weeks and Israel’s citizens have felt for years: The Israel Lands Authority is at the end of its road,” a statement by Moshe Kahlon’s Koolanu Party said.
The party has put plans to break up the ILA at the center of its platform and reiterated its stance that the ILA’s monopoly on land is behind the high-housing costs.
“We repeat our demand: We must break apart the monopoly of the Israel Lands Authority, which has for years blocked the construction market in Israel,” the statement said.