Liberman indictment casts cloud on political future
By GIL HOFFMAN AND YONAH JEREMY BOB
Justice Ministry officially charges Yisrael Beytenu head with fraud and breach of trust in Belarus Ambassador Affair.
The Justice Ministry indicted Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman at the
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday morning, charging the former foreign
minister with fraud and breach of trust in the Belarus Ambassador
The indictment does not bar Liberman from running for Knesset and
he remains second on the joint Likud Beytenu list after Prime Minister Binyamin
He will not have to quit the Knesset unless he is convicted
and the charges against him are found to bear moral turpitude.
Liberman is convicted and sentenced to jail, and the court rules that the
charges bear moral turpitude, he will not be able to serve as a minister for
seven years after he completes his sentence – as happened to former interior
minister and current Shas candidate Arye Deri.
The seven-year cooling-off
period could also be applied by the High Court of Justice even if Liberman is
not given jail time. There is also a small chance that he might be sentenced to
prison without the finding of moral turpitude, which would enable him to be a
minister after he completes his sentence.
On Thursday, Attorney- General
Yehuda Weinstein presented the Knesset with an updated indictment against
Liberman. The main change was that Liberman’s alleged involvement in helping
former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh become ambassador to Latvia was now
described as having been of a more active nature.
The change followed
questioning of the members of the Foreign Ministry’s appointments panel,
including Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, and the requestioning of
The indictment still focuses on Liberman’s failure to report
that Ben-Aryeh illegally leaked information to him on an investigation into the
former foreign minister’s involvement in an alleged massive money laundering
scheme, and on allegations that Liberman acted on Ben- Aryeh’s behalf to get
jobs at the Foreign Ministry as a “payment” of sorts after the
Liberman resigned as foreign minister and waived his parliamentary
immunity two weeks ago, when the initial draft indictment was presented to the
The Justice Ministry spokesman explained on Thursday that since
Liberman had waived his parliamentary immunity on that draft indictment out of
an abundance of caution, Weinstein resubmitted the updated document to the
Knesset so Liberman could once again waive his immunity regarding the new,
somewhat more serious charges.
The indictment now indicates that Liberman
discussed the possible ambassadorship with Ben-Aryeh when the latter asked him
for advice, and he told Ben-Aryeh that he would support his
Next, the updated document says, Liberman summoned Ayalon and
told him they should appoint Ben-Aryeh to the ambassadorship.
Ayalon, in his capacity as deputy foreign
minister, served as chairman of the ministry’s seven-person “higher
appointments” committee responsible for filling vacancies at embassies and
consulates abroad, such as the Latvia ambassadorship.
Ayalon that Ben- Aryeh was the most qualified candidate for the job, although he
did not mention to Ayalon the earlier incident in which Ben-Aryeh had leaked the
information to him, according to the indictment.
Ayalon, who barely knew
Ben- Aryeh, then acted based on Liberman’s recommendation and on documents
before the committee to try to ensure his appointment, the indictment says. The
document does not specify what actions Ayalon took in that regard, although the
issue will probably be fleshed out by witnesses in court.
a statement responding to the amended indictment by again denying any criminal
wrongdoing. He said nothing had changed in light of the questioning of
additional witnesses and allegations that he had asked Ayalon to appoint
Liberman said he wanted the issue to be clarified in court,
and to that end had already informed the Knesset that he was waiving his
parliamentary immunity – in addition to having quit his post as foreign minister
– so that the matter could be quickly resolved in court.
about a plea bargain, as well as other rumors, are without foundation, and the
truth will emerge in the court,” he said.