(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov was released from prison today, after a parole board cut his sentence by a third last month.
The former Yisrael Beiteinu MK began serving his punishment in December 2017 after being convicted on corruption charges that dated back to his term as Tourism Minister in 2010. Meseznikov admitted to having acted in a conflict of interest and was convicted as part of a plea bargain. The charges included actively campaigning for a student festival in Eilat through the tourism ministry, transferring almost NIS 1 million to finance it, while recommending that the organizers employ Julia Roth, with whom he was in a relationship at the time, as the producer.
Charges of bribery and money laundering were dropped.
The court convicted Meseznikov
as part of a plea bargain signed by the State Attorney's
Office in the framework of the arrangement for fraud and breach of trust.
"I regret it from the bottom of my heart, the mistake was made out of too much enthusiasm and a lack of experience, that apparently, stemmed from me being a new minister," the Meseznikov
said, "I hope that from letters you read about the subject you will understand that I have done nothing maliciously and deceitfully. I'm far from being a corrupt man."
Judge Tzachi Uziel said, "There is no doubt that the offense of which the Defendant was convicted is one of the main offenses in the fight against governmental corruption. He was the most senior official in the Tourism Ministry who exploited his high status and acted in a substantive and blatant conflict of interests in advancing financial profits for someone with whom he had a close and secret relationship with."
Last month, the Parole Board met in Hermon Prison, where Meseznikov
served his sentence. and decided that he could be released after serving nine out of the original 15months. In addition to the prison sentence, he was fined NIS 90,000.
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