(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein late Wednesday said he likely will file an indictment against former defense minister and Labor Party power broker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer for bribery, money- laundering, fraud, breach of public trust and tax offenses.
Weinstein qualified his announcement by saying his decision was subject to a pre-indictment hearing he would grant Ben-Eliezer – a special procedure for public and former public officials – as a last chance to convince him to drop the charges.
Defendants usually fail to get charges against them entirely dropped in pre-indictment hearings, but Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman did succeed in reducing the number of charges filed against him.
Ben-Eliezer declined to address the allegations in detail, but said he hoped he would prove his innocence.
In January, police recommended to the State Attorney’s Office that Ben-Eliezer be indicted on what appears to be a nearly identical list of charges.
The January statement by police said there also was evidence that a number of other suspects in the case, including Jacky Ben-Zaken, businessman Avraham Nanikashvili and Ben-Eliezer’s former bureau chief Ayelet Azoulay, committed a series of crimes including bribery.
The case deals with allegations from 2007-2013, covering a period when Ben-Eliezer was the national infrastructure minister, claiming he accepted large bribes from a series of associates in order to help advance their business interests.
Police said they believed Ben-Eliezer laundered millions of shekels by buying real estate and funneling it to bank accounts belonging to relatives, as well as through currency- exchange businesses.
The money included NIS 2,142,000 found in safe-deposit box at a Jerusalem bank belonging to Ben-Eliezer.
The 79-year-old Ben-Eliezer tendered his letter of resignation from the Knesset in December 2014, citing health issues, ending decades as a public servant.
Before the case broke in June 2014, Ben-Eliezer had been expected to be a front-runner in the June 2014 elections for the presidency.