Aryeh Deri .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Interior Minister Arye Deri is again facing jail time after police recommended Tuesday that he be indicted on counts of fraud and breach of trust.
The Israel Police's Lahav 433 Unit announced that it had completed its joint investigation with the Tax Authority into allegations against the minister and would submit their findings and recommendations to the State Attorney's Office.
The investigation found sufficient evidence against the Shas Party leader of fraud and breach of trust with respect to his conduct with a businessman while serving as a minister, as well as for significant tax offenses amounting to millions of shekels, money laundering, disruption of court proceedings and giving false information to the Knesset speaker and the state comptroller regarding his assets and income.
Police said that “despite the fact that Minister Deri was explicitly told not to talk to one of the involved parties about the issues under investigation and was warned about tampering with evidence, the minister immediately approached him when his questioning was close to a conclusion, and spoke to him about questioning, about his expected testimony to the police, and he ‘refreshed’ his memory.”
This is Deri’s second run-in with the law. In 2000, he went to Ma’asiyahu Prison for 22 months after being convicted of taking bribes as interior minister in the 1990s. Deri returned to politics in 2012 and was appointed interior minister by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the last election.
Deri’s office said in response: “We welcome the conclusion of the police investigation that lasted almost three years. We received with satisfaction the suspension of the serious suspicions of receiving bribes [and] stealing from associations and others, which at the time led to the opening of the investigation. We believe that when the State Prosecutor’s Office works on the matter, the rest of the suspicions will also be cleared, and it will become clear that Minister Arye Deri did not break the law.”
In August, police said that they had not found sufficient evidence for a bribery charge against Deri.
“Another minister joins the elected officials suspected of corruption,” said Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. “In a civilized country, Netanyahu would have demanded Deri’s resignation today. But a prime minister with a recommendation for an indictment cannot exactly say something to an interior minister with a recommendation for an indictment.”
Police recommended in February that the state prosecution indict Netanyahu for bribery in Cases 1000 and 2000
Zionist Union MK Salah Saad remarked: “You cannot take away what Arye Deri did in Israeli politics. For his own good and for the benefit of his voters, many of them from the weak population of Israel, he should resign from the Knesset and the government and fight for his innocence. There is a very bad message to the public in the continuance of Deri’s tenure as a minister in the government.”
The investigation, carried out by the National Fraud Investigation Unit at Lahav 433 and the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office, dealt with the transfers of hundreds of thousands of shekels from various businessmen to Deri.
The case dealt with suspicions of money laundering in connection with bank accounts related to Deri and his family, suspicions of significant sums of money transferred from businessmen to the Deri family, some prior to his return to political activity and others after his return to the Knesset.
Investigators looked into the nature of the payments and the manner in which they were reported. They also investigated transactions for the sale of plots of land owned by Deri in Har Shmuel and Givat Shaul; the purchase of land in Safsufa; statements by the minister to the speaker of the Knesset and the state comptroller; missing reports in capital declarations to the tax authorities, among other suspicious transactions.
The investigation also found sufficient evidence for an indictment against Deri’s brother, attorney Shlomo Deri, who currently serves as deputy chairman of KKLJNF. Investigators found evidence that he committed tax offenses amounting to millions of shekels. Police also said there’s sufficient evidence to charge additional suspects with money laundering and tax offenses.
The investigation into additional suspicions has not yet been completed, but police said this is a separate case in which the material gathered was not based on evidence against Deri, and therefore it was decided not to delay the transfer of the other findings to the State Prosecutor’s Office, which will be done in the coming days.
Police did not say who is involved in this case, but it is known that Deri’s wife, Yaffa, has also been questioned with regard to nonprofit organizations she runs to which affluent businessmen close to the minister allegedly donated large sums of money.
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