(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A close associate of Interior Minister Arye Deri was questioned under caution by police on Tuesday on suspicion of being involved in the corruption probe against the minister.
Due to the gag order on the case, police would not confirm or deny that an associate of Deri’s was questioned under caution. An official with the Lahav 433 branch of the Israel Police said no elected official or public employee has been questioned under caution in the case so far, when asked about the status of the associate.
The official added that “ever since the attorney-general ordered a criminal probe against Deri, steps are being carried out as part of the investigation.”
The associate was questioned for several hours at the Lod headquarters of the Lahav 433 branch of the Israel Police in part of a joint investigation being carried out with the National Tax Authority.
According to Channel 2, Deri’s associate is suspected of two offenses that are among the most severe corruption charges in Israel’s penal code.
Channel 2 reported that two other people were also questioned under caution by investigators on Tuesday, and searches were carried out at a house and office belonging to the associate of Deri.
Deri himself is expected to be questioned under caution before the Passover holiday that begins April 22.
Sources close to Deri who in the past downplayed the case admitted Tuesday that they were concerned that incriminating information could be found.
Deri’s brother, Shlomo, who paid for some of the real estate owned by the Deri family, downplayed the extent of the Shas leader’s financial involvement in the homes in an interview with Channel 10. He said the family’s luxurious vacation villa in the Upper Galilee village of Kfar Hoshen, also known as Safsufa, was not worth more than a three-bedroom apartment in Tel Aviv.
Channel 10 reported that the investigation into the real estate owned by the Deri family could go on for “many months, perhaps even a year.”