Businessman convicted of bribing top ex-Yisrael Beytenu official Kirschenbaum

Also known as Case 242, the conviction went against Israeli Promoters Association CEO Irena Waldberg as part of a plea bargain.

November 25, 2018 18:47
2 minute read.
reuven rivlin

President Reuven Rivlin consulting with Yisrael Beytenu representatives. (photo credit: DAVID VAAKNIN)

A businessman was convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday for bribing ex-deputy minister and top Yisrael Beytenu official Faina Kirschenbaum.

While the conviction of World Ezra Association Director-General David Ellinson did not include a verdict about Kirschenbaum, the fact of his conviction for bribing her along with prior convictions of her aides makes a conviction of Avigdor Liberman’s one-time top lieutenant very likely.

Ellinson was convicted of bribing Kirschenbaum by paying for her personal vacation flights in the amount of around NIS 40,000 as well as a range of expensive electronics items in exchange for preferable government treatment of his business interests from 2010-2014.

When Kirschenbaum’s trial opened in February, Economic Crimes Unit Deputy Director Meor Even Chen told the court that even as the country has seen corruption among its public officials in the past, that this case was unique.

Even Chen said that in this case “it was not a question of giving an approval…the indictment…is practically like none which an Israeli court has even seen…state funds from the budget itself were used as bribery funds…by the woman empowered by the legislature herself.”

In January, the prosecution got its first conviction in the Yisrael Beytenu Affair involving Kirschenbaum, Yisrael Beytenu chief of staff David Godovsky and other public officials.

Also known as Case 242, the conviction went against Israeli Promoters Association CEO Irena Waldberg as part of a plea bargain.

Waldberg has admitted to bribing Godovsky and another aide of Kirschenbaum by paying NIS 15,084 for their flights to Ukraine and Serbia in August 2014.

As part of her plea bargain, Waldberg said Kirschenbaum was aware of the arrangement, had told Godovsky and the other aide to ask Waldberg for the funding, and she had complied to ingratiate herself with Kirschenbaum, who was assisting her with a range of business issues.

Waldberg is only one piece of the evidence in the case.

Case 242 involves about a dozen other former ministry CEOs and former heads of quasi-governmental bodies and regional councils who have been under the gun since the alleged massive fraud scheme became known in December 2014.

According to police, the 2009-2014 conspiracy involved a series of plots by the suspects, including a large number of public officials and local council heads, to approve state funding and inflated budgets for various state bodies and NGOs. A percentage of that allegedly was then kicked back to the accomplices, including Kirschenbaum and Godovsky.

Kirschenbaum alone is said to have worked the scheme not only with the World Ezra Association, but also with the Samaria Development Company, the Ayalim Association, the Binyamin Regional Council and with the National Anti-Drug and Alcohol Abuse Authority.

Besides skimming funds off the budgets that Kirschenbaum granted to the various public bodies, she, her family members, and members of Yisrael Beytenu also received free hotel rooms, expensive electronics, paid jobs and a range of other illegal quid pro quo benefits.

Police said the public officials sought out local council heads and heads of NGOs who were looking to receive special budgetary supplements, and would look the other way if some of the money went into the pockets of the conspirators.

When the case broke, police said they had investigated some 480 people of interest and had seized more than NIS 25 million in assets.

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