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Justice Ministry set to close Liberman case
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
12/12/2012
In fateful decision, ministry expected to remove cloud over foreign minister, indict him for breach of public trust.
 
The Justice Ministry is expected to close the main case against Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday afternoon, while indicting him for breach of public trust in a separate 2008 case involving obstruction of justice by former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh.

The ministry confirmed the timing of the decision.

The decision would be a fateful one for a case that goes back years, and could also move toward lifting a cloud from one of the most powerful politicians in Israel and end speculation of any premature end to Liberman’s career. Liberman has maintained his innocence on all matters throughout.

According to an earlier draft indictment in the main case, Liberman is suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private business people through straw companies between the years 2001 and 2008, while he was a member of Knesset and a cabinet minister.

The foreign minister has already undergone an unusual three pre-indictment hearing with the state attorney, and many times Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein has said he would decide whether to submit an indictment against him.

But on November 8, the State Attorney’s Office responded to a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding a decision on the case, stating that Weinstein would decide within about a month and before the January 22 election.

Since then, speculation has been rampant in the media about what would happen and whether the coalition would fall if Liberman was indicted in the main case.

Liberman is not fully out of the woods even if the main case is dropped, if he gets indicted for breach of public trust in the Ben-Aryeh case.

There are scenarios where Liberman might still need to resign as foreign minister.

Ben-Aryeh was convicted last May of showing Liberman investigative material in 1998 against Liberman that Ben-Aryeh received in his capacity as an ambassador.

Liberman could still have problems if he is convicted and if there is a finding of moral turpitude, but most cases with findings of moral turpitude have involved much more severe charges than breach of public trust.

If Liberman did have to resign, but there was no eventual finding of moral turpitude, there would likely be no legal bar to him coming back as a minister.
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