State Attorney to Attorney-General: Indict Arye Deri

Deri’s criminal record includes a bribery conviction in 2000 leading to his serving more than two years in prison after being forced to resign as a minister.

August 15, 2019 20:56
2 minute read.
State Attorney to Attorney-General: Indict Arye Deri

Shas leader Arye Deri prays at the grave of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on the morning of elections. (photo credit: YAAKOV COHEN/MAARIV)

State Attorney Shai Nitzan has recommended to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to indict Interior Minister Arye Deri for tax crimes, fraud, money-laundering and some unspecified obstruction crimes, Channel 13 reported Thursday night and The Jerusalem Post has confirmed.

In November, after a nearly three-year probe, the police recommended indicting Deri for those crimes.

Deri’s criminal record includes a bribery conviction in 2000 leading to his serving more than two years in prison after being forced to resign as a minister and then having to stay out of politics until 2012.

Although some sought his resignation following the November announcement or prior to the April election or the impending September election, Mandelblit and the prosecution had continued to process the case slowly until now.

It also appears that Mandelblit will not make a decision until after the September 17 election.

However, Mandelblit is likely to render a decision before Nitzan steps down in December.

The good-government NGO, the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, had warned against his reappointment as a minister in 2015.

The High Court of Justice itself split on the issue in May 2016 with a narrow 2-1 majority saying that though his past actions were problematic, his prior record did not explicitly legally bar him from reappointment as a minister (after a cooling off period which had expired).

In that decision, the High Court wrote that there was no bar to his reappointment to return to the Interior Ministry, which he had been forced out of because his criminal conduct had not specifically related to that ministry.

At the time, the NGO had tried to raise the new criminal probe of Deri before the High Court as a trump card to prove he had not learned his lesson.

Instead, the High Court swatted away the new investigation, saying that it would deal with that as a separate issue when and if it became more serious, such as in the case of an indictment or conviction.

Justice Neal Hendel wrote a dissenting opinion in which he said that Deri’s prior crimes were deeply tied to his role as interior minister.

Also, he said those crimes were so grave and struck so destructively at the heart of democracy that he should now be fired as interior minister.

Echoing the petitioners, he said that even if the prime minister and the Knesset have tremendous discretion about whom to appoint to ministerial roles, Deri’s appointment as interior minister went too far.

In the case, both Mandelblit and his predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein, took the position that reappointing Deri as a minister was unseemly, but not explicitly illegal.

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