(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Interior Minister Arye Deri and his wife, Yaffa, were questioned by police for over six hours on Monday in an ongoing graft probe.
The minister and leader of the Shas Party is suspected of money laundering, fraud, breach of trust, theft by an authorized person and fraudulent registration and tax offenses, police said in a statement last week.
Deri downplayed the investigation, telling Channel 10 in an interview on Sunday that “I am 100% confident in myself, thank God.”
The investigation into the minister and his wife is being pursued on multiple suspicions, including allegations that he illegally transferred a five-room Jerusalem apartment to his brother, attorney Shlomo Deri, and that the NGO Mifalot Simha, headed by Yaffa Deri, was used to funnel money from businessmen earmarked for the Deri family, Channel 10 reported. Police are also investigating how the Deri family funded a vacation villa in northern Israel and the alleged misuse of state funds by Mifalot Simha.
The case, which has been under investigation since April 2016, was officially announced by police last week, when the police arrested 14 people and questioned Arye and Yaffa Deri for over 11 hours.
Among the 14 detainees were Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Moshe Leon and Development of the Negev and Galilee Ministry director-general Ariel Mashaal. Both Leon and Mashaal were released without restriction.
Police last week said the case was initially based on suspicions of tax offenses, mainly in the field of assets, but subsequently was expanded to include additional suspicions and “many suspects.”
Deri arrived at the offices of the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit in Lod on Monday morning and finished undergoing questioning at around 3 p.m.
In a statement, police said they would not comment on the investigation, stating only that the investigation is being conducted jointly by the Israel Police, the Israel Tax Authority, and the Israel Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Prohibition Authority.
Suspicions have circulated for over a year that Deri carried out a series of illegal interfamily real estate deals. Deri previously reported to tax authorities that he owns only one apartment in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
Shlomo Deri was questioned last year regarding the financing of the Deri family’s vacation home and denied the allegations, stating that he legally paid for the majority of the vacation home.
The home in the Upper Galilee village of Kfar Hoshen, also known as Safsufa, is owned by Arye Deri’s daughter Dassi Iluz.