Under explicit pressure from the High Court of Justice, OMETZ on Sunday
abandoned its petition to reopen a multimillion- dollar money-laundering case
against former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, which Attorney-General Yehuda
Weinstein had closed.
The petition by the Movement for the Quality of
Government in Israel (OMETZ) was the last chance to revive the case, ongoing for
more than a decade, against the Yisrael Beytenu party leader.
to a draft indictment (which was never filed once a final decision was made by
Weinstein to close the case), relating to the money-laundering case, Liberman
was 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.
In December, Weinstein decided to close
the primary (money-laundering) case against Liberman and submitted an indictment
against him only on the much-narrower Belarus Ambassador Affair.
hearing, the court blasted OMETZ repeatedly on its attempt to intervene in one
of the prime areas under an attorney-general’s discretion – whether to file an
indictment against a defendant or to close a case against him.
argued that Weinstein should have heeded State Attorney Moshe Lador and other
senior officials in the Justice Ministry who advocated indicting Liberman in the
The NGO pointed to alternative interpretations
to what Weinstein eventually concluded from the evidence.
OMETZ said that a key witness from Cyprus who had helped manage Liberman’s
companies, referred to as “Daniella,” told investigators that Liberman stayed
connected to his companies while in public service, including at times during
which he maintained that he had cut all ties.
When he closed the case,
Weinstein said – and the state repeated before the High Court – that “it was
unclear” whether Daniella “would cooperate,” because she later contradicted her
initial statements on the issue, and whether she would agree to travel from
Cyprus to Israel.
OMETZ said it was clear that Daniella “would
cooperate,” as she “showed up to all meetings,” as requested by investigators
when they went to see her in Cyprus.
The court responded that all
government entities have a hierarchy which must be respected and that it was
Weinstein’s prerogative as the top legal official in the executive branch to
overrule his subordinates, however senior they might be.
specific evidence which OMETZ challenged, the court suggested that simply
because there was evidence against Liberman or that theoretically another
attorney-general might have viewed it differently, that could not justify a
court intervention in Weinstein’s decision.
The court said this was
especially true because, whether or not an indictment was filed, it became
apparent that getting a conviction would have been complicated.
in the Belarus Ambassador Affair has been concluded. Liberman is awaiting the
verdict, which may determine his political future; the court has not yet
scheduled a date for its announcement.