Stas Meseznikov .
(photo credit: STAS MESEZNIKOV / WIKIMEDIA)
The parole board has approved the early release of former Yisrael Beytenu tourism minister Stas Meseznikov from his 15-month prison sentence for fraud and breach of public trust.
As a result of the Monday ruling, Meseznikov will be released on September 9, after having served two-thirds of his sentence.
Meseznikov was sentenced to 15 months in prison by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court in November as part of a plea bargain, in which the more serious bribery, money-laundering and drug smuggling charges were dropped.
Along with Meseznikov, former deputy interior minister and top Yisrael Beytenu officer Faina Kirschenbaum as well as around a dozen other former ministry CEOs and former heads of quasi-governmental bodies and regional councils are being tried and have been under the gun since the massive fraud schemes broke in December 2014.
Some of Kirschenbaum’s lieutenants were also convicted.
Originally, the charges against Meseznikov included bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, falsifying documents and obstruction of justice
from 2009 to 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 corruption allegedly involved a series of conspiracies 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 accomplices in the conspiracy.
Kirschenbaum alone is said to have worked the scheme 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 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.
Meseznikov in particular gave NIS 1 million to the city of Eilat for a festival there in exchange for hiring his wife as a consultant and paying her tens of thousands of shekels. He was also originally accused of sending aides to procure cocaine and other drugs for his use.