(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Economy Minister Arye Deri’s personal wealth should be investigated, the Movement for Quality Government wrote Tuesday to the State Comptroller’s Office and to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
The watchdog group made the request following reports in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) media that Deri falsely declared to authorities ahead of last March’s election that he owned one apartment when he actually owned three. The reports said the three apartments together were worth close to NIS 15.5 million.
financial newspaper reported that Deri owned a plot of land in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood in which five apartments were being built.
Deri served two years in prison after a conviction in 1997 for accepting $155,000 in bribes while serving as interior minister.
He returned to the Knesset in 2013 and became a minister in 2015.
The movement said all of the official wealth declaration documents submitted by Deri since 2013 should be examined.
“We call upon the comptroller and the speaker to take steps to ensure that Deri’s declarations about his finances were not false,” movement spokeswoman Ruth Margolin said. “If there is any gap between what he submitted in his official documents and his actual wealth, he should be held accountable by the law.”
Deri’s brother, attorney Shlomo Deri, said the apartments were indeed reported and that the Shas leader was in the process of transferring ownership to family members but was prevented due to bureaucracy in mortgage banks. Shlomo said his brother mortgaged his own home to purchase the land to build the apartments.
The Shas leader is expected to abdicate the Economy portfolio soon in order to enable the passage of a controversial gas deal.
He will remain Negev and Galilee Development minister and be compensated with other responsibilities.
He is expected to quit the Knesset in December following the passage of the state budget as part of the so-called Norwegian Law, which allows ministers to quit the Knesset and be replaced by the next name on their party’s list. According to the law, which passed in July, if Shas leaves the government, Deri would be able to return to the Knesset.