(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former deputy minister Faina Kirschenbaum (Yisrael Beytenu) pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to numerous charges of corruption stemming from one of the most far-reaching government fraud probes in Israel’s history.
Following a two-year investigation known as “Case 242,” Kirschenbaum and nine other Yisrael Beytenu officials were indicted in August on a litany of offenses including bribery, money laundering, fraud, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.
On Tuesday, Kirschenbaum’s colleague, former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov – with whom she is accused of colluding for numerous bribes – was sentenced to 15 months in prison following a plea deal with the state.
According to the indictment filed against Kirshenbaum, who served as an MK from 2009 to 2015, she used her oversight as deputy minister to embezzle millions of shekels worth of funds for herself, family members and friends.
Kirschenbaum oversaw her party’s annual NIS 170 million allocation of taxpayer coalition money.
She is accused of accepting bribes from the Samaria Development Company, Ayalim Association, Binyamin Regional Council, Ezra Association and the National Anti-Drug and Alcohol Abuse Authority in return for money and benefits for herself and her family.
In October 2015, police named 21 suspects against whom they found evidence, including former chief of staff of the Yisrael Beytenu Party, David Godovsky; former Agricultural Ministry CEO Rami Cohen; former CEO of Netivei Israel (formerly the Israel National Roads Company), Yeshiyahu “Shay” Beres; Tamar Regional Council head Dov Litvinoff; and powerful lobbyist and former Jerusalem branch chairman of the Likud, Yisrael Yehoshua, among others.
Kirschenbaum resigned shortly after she was named as a suspect amid the growing probe.
She has been charged in Tel Aviv District Court with bribery, tax evasion, fraud, breach of trust, and money laundering.
Additionally, the State Attorney’s Office is requesting that NIS 5.7 million worth of Kirschenbaum’s real estate be seized by the state.