Interview with Barak housekeeper prompts reopening of case

Investigation into defense minister hiring illegal foreign worker was closed after Shin Bet investigators failed to locate the Filipino woman.

October 18, 2010 01:56
2 minute read.
Ehud Barak

barak kill 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein left open the possibility of reopening the investigation into allegations that Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s wife, Nili Priel, employed a housekeeper who did not have a permit to live in Israel, after an Israel Radio reporter located and interviewed the woman on Sunday.

Last week, Weinstein announced that the state prosecution had closed the case because it had failed to find the housekeeper. However, on Sunday morning, military correspondent Carmela Menashe interviewed the woman, whose name is Virginia.

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The interview triggered harsh criticism from various quarters, including Kadima MK Shlomo Molla and watchdog organizations Ometz and the Movement for Quality Government. It also prompted a petition by the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, demanding that Weinstein reopen the investigation.

A few hours later, High Court Justice Yoram Danziger gave the state two-and-a-half weeks to reply to the petition.

In a response to a letter from Molla, Weinstein’s senior aide, Raz Nazri, wrote, “During the months in which the investigation was conducted, Alex Kogan, who is in charge of prosecutions in the Population, Migration and Border Crossings Authority, spoke several times to Menashe following a previous report by her on this matter. He hoped to obtain her help in locating the employee. Kogan told us, both before the meeting in which the decision to close the file was taken and in another check this morning, that even though Menashe said she was ready to help, she explained at some stage that she could not do so because of a promise she had made to the employee not to reveal her.

“In their last conversation, Menashe told Kogan that she had cut off her ties with the employee and had no information on the matter. I can state that to the extent that we now receive new, relevant information on this matter, it will be examined and assessed as is customary.”

Weinstein was stung by allegations in Molla’s letter that he had given Barak special, lenient treatment.

“The judicial system deliberately went easy on the defense minister... and treats people differently,” Molla charged.

Nazri replied that as long as the state could not locate the employee, it could not indict Priel or Barak because it would have lacked sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

But attorney Moshe Pollak, who is representing the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, wrote in his petition that in many cases the state prosecuted employers even when the migrant worker was not available to testify.

“Indictments are routinely filed or administrative fines levied even when testimony cannot be taken from the migrant worker or on the basis of the testimony or confession of the suspect,” he wrote.

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