(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The State Attorney’s Office handed down corruption indictments against 10 people involved in the “Yisrael Beytenu corruption scandal,” including former deputy minister Faina Kirschenbaum, on Tuesday.
Ex-tourism minister Stas Meseznikov is also expected to be indicted, on a different date, for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as drug charges and for obstruction of justice.
Kirschenbaum was charged with bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and tax offenses. The State Attorney’s Office asked to impound her and her husband’s bank accounts and property worth NIS 5.7 million.
The corruption scandal, revealed in late 2014, involved Yisrael Beytenu officials allegedly demanding bribes in exchange for arranging for nonprofit organizations to receive government grants and funding. Government ministries, local authorities and nonprofit organizations were embroiled in the case, such as the Shomron Development Company, the Anti-Drug Authority, and Ayalim, which encourages young people to live in the Negev and the Galilee. The officials would allegedly demand that the organizations give them part of the government funding they received.
According to the charges, as former deputy interior minister and Yisrael Beytenu secretary-general, Kirschenbaum, from 2006 to 2014, took advantage of her position to enrich herself.
She allegedly distributed state money to bodies that bribed her in cash, by funneling money to a company she founded, buying her computers and phones, or funding her or her family’s travel abroad. Cash bribes were found to have been hidden in boxes of dates and packages of Dead Sea skin products.
Bribe money also allegedly went to Yisrael Beytenu, funding a poll and other party activities, as well as to party activists.
Other ex-officials with ties to Yisrael Beytenu who were charged on Tuesday include former party chief of staff David Godovsky, thought to be a central accomplice of Kirschenbaum, former Agriculture Ministry director- general Rami Cohen and his wife, Batya, lobbyist Steven Levy, and several heads of NGOs.
Others are negotiating plea bargains, and there are currently six state’s witnesses involved in the case, including former Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, who resigned due to the corruption scandal.