(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former Yisrael Beytenu minister Stas Meseznikov was sentenced on Tuesday to 15 months in prison by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court as part of a plea bargain.
According to the plea bargain, the former tourism minister was convicted of fraud and breach of public trust, but more serious charges of bribery, money-laundering and drug-smuggling were dropped.
Along with Meseznikov, former deputy interior minister and top Yisrael Beytenu figure Faina Kirschenbaum along with about a dozen former ministry directors-general, heads of quasi-governmental bodies and regional councils have been indicted – and under the gun – since news of the massive fraud schemes broke in December 2014.
Originally, the primary charges included bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, falsifying documents and obstruction of justice from 2009-2014.
Case 242, known in the media and to the public as the “Yisrael Beytenu case,”
has involved more than 15 smaller corruption investigations involving bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
According to police, the conspiracy allegedly involved a series of plots by the suspects – including a large number of public officials and local council heads – to pass state funds and inflated budgets for different state bodies and NGOs, a percentage of which was then kicked up to the conspirators.
Kirschenbaum is said to have worked the scheme alone with the Samaria Development Company, the Ayalim Association, the Binyamin Regional Council, the Ezra Association and the National Anti- Drug and Alcohol Abuse Authority.
Besides skimming funds off the budgets that Kirschenbaum allegedly granted to the various public bodies, she, her family members and members of Yisrael Beytenu are said to have 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, looking the other way if some of the money went into the pockets of the conspirators.
Meseznikov, in particular, gave NIS 1 million to the city of Eilat for a festival in exchange for hiring his wife as a consultant and paying her tens of thousands of shekels. He was also accused of sending aides to procure cocaine and other drugs for his use.
When the case broke, police said they had investigated some 480 people of interest and seized more than NIS 25m. in assets.