Likud MK convicted of corruption

Court finds Naomi Blumenthal guilty of election fraud, obstruction of justice.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
February 13, 2006 10:05
4 minute read.
nomi blumenthal 298

naomi blumenthal 298 88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Hours after the Tel Aviv magistrate's court accepted the prosecutor's argument and convicted Likud MK Naomi Blumenthal on multiple criminal charges, a key witness spoke about Monday evening about his role in the case. Avi Oski, Blumenthal's former driver and key witness against the Knesset member said Monday evening that he was satisfied with the verdict, which determined that the MK was guilty on charges of corruption, election fraud and obstruction of justice.

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"I am very happy that the court said that my truth was the real truth and agreed that… Blumenthal's story was false." The driver said that charges made against him by Blumenthal and co-defendant Michael Alnawa were untrue, and were made in an attempt to deflect the serious charges against them. He added that had he, as the two claimed, blackmailed Blumenthal, he would have been indicted for blackmailing a Knesset member. Oski said that the decision to go to the police and volunteer his testimony against Blumenthal was based on a feeling of personal injury and carried out as a last resort in an effort to save his family. "I was used as a tool and then abandoned. I began to abuse sleeping pills and almost lost my wife and my twins, before I realized that I was doing it for a woman to whom I was nothing, who used me and abandoned me," Oski explained. "I lay on the fence for a MK who used me to commit a crime." Oski's attorney, Shlomo Dagan, portrayed his client as a hero. "If you have truth and believe in that truth, go with it until the end. It doesn't matter if you have to take on a MK or financial pressure. The truth will win in the end." The maximum penalty for all of the offenses combined is seven years.
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Judges ruled that state witness Avi Oski, her former driver, presented a more believable and cohesive account of events, and that Blumenthal lied throughout the entire process of her investigation and trial. The special three-judge panel also criticized the manner in which she chose to exercise her right to remain silent. "Blumenthal is hiding behind the fortified wall of the right to remain silent, while during the trial she sheds responsibility, throws it onto her loyal employees, and most importantly, does injustice to the truth time after time in every way possible," said the judges. The judges wrote that they were convinced that Blumenthal's actions were of the specific intent to influence a vote and that she acted in a criminal manner when she tried to convince her employees to coordinate the version of events. Blumenthal had no comment for reporters as she exited the courthouse. Following the court's ruling MKs from both sides of the political spectrum used Blumenthal's conviction to advance their own political platforms. Labor party sources said that there was "a direct connection of corruption between Blumenthal and Tzahi Hanegbi, and to Olmert and Kadima, and that it was time to disconnect capital from government." Shinui MK Ehud Ratzabi said that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu were responsible for public corruption and the undermining of the rule of law. He called on Olmert to force Hanegbi out of Kadima and for Netanyahu to do the same with Blumenthal in Likud. Likud MK Ehud Yatom said that, "the ink is not yet dry, and I'll wait for the appeals; but it looks bad, really bad." Blumenthal was accused of corruption, election fraud and obstruction of justice for bribing 15 Likud activists by hosting them in the Sheraton City Tower Hotel prior to the December 2002 Likud party primaries. Oski told the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court in June of 2005 she had participated in a meeting on the eve of the primaries with him and Micha Elnekaveh, a member of the Likud central committee from Yokne'am, who was also convicted on Monday, at which she agreed to pay for the hotel rooms. At the end of the meeting, Oski said, Blumenthal gave him NIS 12,000 and provided clear instructions what to do with the money. Blumenthal admitted to giving Oski the money since he asked her for it, but denied initiating the hotel- room transaction. According to the prosecution, Blumenthal ordered Oski to recruit Elnekaveh to convince Likud central committee members to support her in the primaries. On the night of December 5, 2002, according to the indictment, she gave Oski NIS 12,000 and told him to pay the Likud central committee member's hotel bill. After the elections, Oski said Blumenthal arranged a meeting with him and Elnekaveh to coordinate their versions of events, in case a police investigation was launched. "He was not at all close to me," Blumenthal was quoted as saying about Oski. "Who does he think he is? For years I have been involved in politics and someone from the bottom of the ladder has the audacity to say things about me - who does he think he is?"

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