(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former deputy minister Faina Kirschenbaum’s bribery trial opened before the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday in the Yisrael Beytenu Affair.
Economic Crimes Unit deputy director Meor Even-Chen told the court that even as the country has seen corruption among its public officials in the past, this case was unique.
Even-Chen said that in previous cases, public officials had been approached with bribes to approve requests, such as construction plans.
However in this case, the prosecutor said, “It was not a question of giving an approval... [Rather] state funds from the budget itself were used as bribery funds... by the woman empowered by the legislature herself.”
Last week, Yisrael Beytenu chief of staff David Godovsky appeared before the court to formally deny corruption charges filed against him as part of the party’s broader corruption affair.
On January 17, the prosecution got its first conviction.
Also known as Case 242, the conviction went against Israeli Promoters Association CEO Irena Waldberg as part of a plea bargain.
Waldberg has admitted to bribing Godovsky and another aide of Kirschenbaum by paying NIS 15,084 for their flights to Ukraine and Serbia in August 2014.
As part of a plea bargain, Waldberg conceded that Kirschenbaum was aware of the arrangement and had told Godovsky and the other aide to ask Waldberg for the funding.
Waldberg said she had complied to ingratiate herself with Kirschenbaum, who was assisting her with a range of public- and private-sector business issues on an ongoing basis.
Waldberg is only one piece of the evidence in the case.
Case 242 involves about a dozen other former ministry CEOs and former heads of quasi-governmental bodies and regional councils who have been under observation since the alleged massive fraud scheme became known in December 2014.
According to the police, the 2009-2014 conspiracy involved a series of plots by the suspects to approve state funding and inflated budgets for various state bodies and NGOs. A percentage of that money allegedly was then kicked back to the accomplices, including Kirschenbaum and Godovsky.
Kirschenbaum is said to have worked on the scheme along 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 she granted to the various public bodies, Kirschenbaum, her family members and members of Yisrael Beytenu are also said to have received free hotel rooms, expensive electronics, paid jobs and a range of other illegal quid pro quo benefits.
There have also been allegations that the bodies who received the funds agreed to give jobs to people close to the Yisrael Beytenu officials and others at the top of the pyramid.