(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The offenses that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is suspected of all have to do with the illegal receipt of funds and attempts to hide the financial activity from state authorities.
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The draft indictment submitted to Lieberman’s lawyers on Wednesday outlines the suspicions and offers a glimpse into the alleged illegal activities of one of the most controversial figures in Israeli politics.
According to the draft indictment, Lieberman began his business activities shortly after resigning as director-general of the Prime Ministers Office in 1997, beginning by establishing two companies, one in Israel and one in Cyprus.
These companies, as well as others he subsequently founded or bought, received what the prosecution described as “enormous amounts, among them, funds that had nothing to do with the company’s activities and did not reflect the revenue from said activities.”
The draft alleges that following the 1999 elections, in which Lieberman was elected as an MK for the first time, Lieberman conspired with his lawyer, Yoav Mani, to continue his business activities, in violation of the law limiting the financial activity of elected officials.
“According to their plan, Mr.
Lieberman and attorney Mani acted methodically and deliberately to hide their activities, continuously defrauding the public and the state authorities,” the draft reads.
“It is suspected that Mr.
Lieberman misrepresented himself before the public and the state comptroller in declaring that he had sold all of his shares in the companies and that he was no longer involved in their operations.
This, in spite of the fact that he continued to conduct business through the companies and to receive income from the companies in his control, all the while submitting false reports of his activities and assets, reports he was obligated to submit due to his public role,” the draft continued.
The prosecution alleged that as part of their agreement, Mani was to establish new companies abroad and maintain the operations of the existing ones through lawyers and third parties, all the while hiding Lieberman’s involvement.
The prosecution claims that Lieberman did in fact maintain a role in managing the companies and enjoyed the fruits of their activities.
“It is suspected that these companies had financial dealings with a limited number of foreign businessmen, with interests or potential interests in Israel, among them Martin Schlaff, Michael Chernoi, Dan Gertler and Daniel Gittenstein.
These businessmen transferred huge sums to the companies, sometimes in single payments and sometimes repeatedly,” read the draft.
“In his behavior, Mr. Lieberman put himself in a position of possible dependency on the businessmen or, regrettably, in conflict of interest between his public activity and his obligations to the said businessmen.”
It is also suspected that after Lieberman resigned from public office in 2004, he helped establish yet another company and registered it in the name of his then-21-year-old daughter. He remained, however, the main beneficiary of the company’s earnings. The prosecution alleged that Lieberman filed false financial reports to his bank in violation of the laws governing money-laundering. It is suspected that he received upwards of $2.5 million in this way.
The draft also alleged that Lieberman spoke to a police witness in an attempt to prevent the exposure of his activities, thus committing witness harassment, and that as foreign minister, he appointed Zeev Ben-Aryeh as ambassador to Belarus, after Ben-Aryeh passed on confidential information about the investigation to him.
Each of Lieberman’s alleged offenses carry penalties of substantial fines and prison terms.
For fraud and breach of trust, the maximum sentence is three years, for moneylaundering, it’s 10 years in prison, for witness harassment, it’s three years and for obtaining a thing by deceit, the maximum sentence is five years.
In February, the prosecution dropped the charge of accepting bribes from Lieberman’s indictment sheet because of the difficulty in subpoenaing witnesses, many of whom reside abroad, to testify in a trial.
Another challenge in proving bribery charges is the difficulty in obtaining physical evidence of the receiver’s intent to commit the offense.