(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Wednesday praised police and the State Prosecutor’s Office for their handling of a corruption case involving MKs and officials from his party, Yisrael Beytenu.
Aharonovitch’s office said that the minister, whose office is in charge of the police and other law enforcement bodies, was updated about the yearlong undercover investigation only after the arrests were made last week. His office said he has made a point not to be briefed on the details of the investigation, so as to avoid a conflict of interest.
In contrast to Aharonovitch’s support for the detectives and prosecutors investigating the case, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman has said he believes the investigation and the arrests made last week were carried out for political reasons, in order to hurt Yisrael Beytenu ahead of the elections in March.
Dozens of suspects have been arrested or detained in the case, including former tourism minister Stas Meseznikov, who has been accused of accepting and giving bribes. He was released on Wednesday to house arrest, and as of Wednesday afternoon police said only 11 of the 29 arrested or detained were still in custody.
The police case revolves around what they’ve described as a method hatched by Yisrael Beytenu MK Faina Kirschenbaum, party officials and other associates, in which state money would be sent to local authorities and nongovernmental organizations with a “commission” sent back to Kirschenbaum and her associates.
In some of the cases police suspect that associates of the suspects were given jobs with the organizations as a kickback for sending the funds.
On Tuesday, the director- general of the Israel Anti- Drug Authority, Yair Geller, was ordered to be kept in custody and Vika Rabin, Kirschenbaum’s parliamentary aide, was released to house arrest and banned from party offices and the Interior Ministry for 30 days.
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday also extended by two days the remands of Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika and Haim Ben-Shushan, the former head of the Central Company for the Development of Samaria. Efi Peles, an official with the Binyamin Regional Council was released to house arrest for 10 days and is to be banned from entering the council offices for 30 days.