|Avigdor Liberman 521 ok.(Photo by: Reuters)|
Liberman indictment delayed; no longer FM
By YONAH JEREMY BOB AND Gil Stern Stern HOFFMAN
Yisrael Beytenu party leader no longer foreign minister; Financial crimes unit indictment for fraud to be filed in "coming days."
The indictment that was due to be filed against Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor
Liberman – shortly after his parliamentary immunity was waived and his
resignation as foreign minister went into effect – was delayed at the last
The delay may be due to the State Attorney’s Office’s need to
interview potentially important witnesses whom it has up to now neglected to
Eight members of a Foreign Ministry appointments panel were
never questioned in regard to the investigation involving Liberman and former
ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, according to a Channel 10
The Justice Ministry spokesman said only that the indictment
would be filed in “the coming days,” after having confirmed only an hour earlier
that the indictment would be filed on Tuesday barring any major surprises.
Liberman’s resignation went into effect at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
charges were expected to include fraud and breach of public trust in the Belarus
Ambassador Affair, based on the draft indictment that Attorney-General Yehuda
Weinstein forwarded to the Knesset last Thursday.
Liberman has denied all
wrongdoing and called for expedited legal proceedings.
angrily to the delay in issuing an indictment, Channel 10 reported, threatening
to petition the High Court of Justice if the state does not file it this
A source close to Liberman denied the report.
during a speech to Yisrael Beytenu activists in Safed that he heard “for some
reason, an indictment wasn’t issued. I hope it will be issued tomorrow or no later than
the day after.”
He added: “I have no doubt about what the result will be,
just as I have no doubt about what the result will be on January 22,” when the
national election will be held. Liberman blamed the State Attorney’s Office for
allegedly leaking information from a meeting with his attorneys.
possible reason for the delay is that a plea bargain deal may be in the works.
The state has opposed any plea bargain deal that does not include a finding of
“moral turpitude,” which could knock Liberman out of public life for seven years
Liberman has repeatedly denied any interest in a plea bargain,
including saying on Tuesday that the case “will be decided by a
Another suggested reason for pushing off the indictment was that
Liberman’s lawyers had supposedly asked for a one-day delay, since some might
interpret that his parliamentary immunity was not waived until Wednesday – as
opposed to Tuesday morning.
It is also possible that the state is looking
into a report by Channel 10 on Monday night that not all key witnesses were
questioned, and the state may need to add graver charges against
Sources indicated on Monday that the State Attorney’s Office
was not able yet to take a position on the news report, and certainly had not
Channel 10 reported on Tuesday night that the attorney-general
was in contact with top police officials about possibly conducting additional
It also aired an interview with a top Foreign Ministry
official, Victor Harel, who said that Ben-Aryeh was “not a standout ambassador,”
contradicting Liberman’s public statements last Thursday that Ben- Aryeh was
promoted because he was clearly “much better than the others.”
showed the cameras what he called an internal evaluation of the former
ambassador that described him as average at best.
According to the
Channel 10 report, some members of the Foreign Ministry appointments panel said
Liberman actively pushed for Ben-Aryeh’s promotion in the ministry.
report also said that police had never questioned Deputy Foreign Minister Danny
Ayalon in the affair.
Liberman has maintained that his main alleged
criminal act was not actively revealing Ben-Aryeh’s illegal conduct to the
Ben-Aryeh was forced to resign from the Foreign
Ministry after he confessed last year to passing on classified information to
Liberman regarding an investigation into the then-foreign minister. The Justice
Ministry requested in 2008 that Ben-Aryeh pass on a document requesting legal
assistance to the Belarusian authorities in an investigation of Liberman, and
Ben- Aryeh copied the information and gave it to Liberman.
convicted last May of obstruction of justice.
Responding to the reports
that police failed to question key Foreign Ministry witnesses, the spokeswoman
for the Serious and International Crime Unit said on Tuesday that they were not
commenting on the case or the Channel 10 report, because as far as they were
concerned the investigation was finished in 2009 and was already passed onto the
State Attorney’s Office.
Any questions about the case must be referred to
the State Attorney’s Office, she added.
In general, the spokeswoman
continued, by the time police send a case to the state, it means that they have
finished the investigation – and if they had not believed the Liberman case was
finished they would not have passed it on.
An off-the-record source at
the Serious and International Crime Unit said in regard to the case: “You
shouldn’t expect that just because of an item in the press, we’re going to go
back to 2009 or somewhere else and say something different than what we did
Although Liberman handed in his resignation as foreign minister on
Sunday, he remains an MK and the chairman of Yisrael Beytenu.
contributed to this report.