Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman..
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Israel Police recommended Sunday that the state indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that evidence exists to back up suspicions that he had taken bribes, fraudulently received goods, violated his public office, obstructed justice, harassed witnesses, and laundered millions of shekels using a host of shell companies and bank accounts.
The recommendation, which carries a surprisingly large number of charges, came after a special unit of the National Fraud Unit and the Lahav 433 Unit completed a three-year investigation of Lieberman, headed by Lt.-Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon
A police source told The Jerusalem Postthat Lieberman had contacted witnesses in the investigation despite being asked by police not to do so, resulting in the recommendations that he be charged with harassing witnesses and obstruction of justice.
Last week, the head of the Israel Police's Investigations Branch, Cmdr. Yoav Seglovitch, adopted the National Fraud Unit's recommendations, and police passed on the case material to state prosecutors and to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.
Police delayed announcing the conclusion of the investigation until Lieberman returned to Israel after a series of visits abroad.
The state prosecution will give top priority to completing its assessment of the investigative material gathered by the police against Lieberman, the state's representative, attorney Dana Briskman, told the High Court of Justice on Sunday.
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Briskman said the prosecution would receive the material in a few days, after the police had finished organizing it and numbering the various cartons and files.
In a statement to the media, the Justice Ministry spokesman said the material would be studied by a team of attorneys from the Economic Section of the State Attorney's Office and they would present their recommendation to Mazuz and State Attorney Moshe Lador "as quickly as possible."
The Justice Ministry did not predict how long the process would take, but pointed out that it was possible the prosecutors would ask the police to further investigate in response to questions that might arise, and that this could prolong the process.
Shortly after the police recommendation was reported, Lieberman issued a statement saying that the decision was without foundation, and that he was the victim of political persecution.
"For 13 years the police have conducted a campaign of persecution against me," he said.
Lieberman said the stronger he and his political party became, the more the campaign to "remove me from public activity" intensified.
"There was not one real reason to open an investigation against me," he said, adding that if the suspicions against him were substantiated, the investigation would not have taken more than a decade.
"Only an appeal to the High Court, which demanded a halt to the judicial torture of me and my family, compelled the police to conclude the investigation," he said.
Lieberman added that, as in numerous cases in the past, when the police recommended indictments against public figures only to have the cases dismissed by the attorney-general, the fate of this recommendation would be similar.
"I hope that, as opposed to the police, the other law enforcement bodies will act with reason, without political interests and without prejudice, and will not try to justify the longest political investigation in the history of the state," he said.
Lieberman, in his statement, said that in a country ruled by law everyone - even a minister - was innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The investigation began following an order by Mazuz on April 30 2006, and detectives investigated suspicions dating back to 2000. Lieberman served both as an MK and a minister during this period.
"Detectives followed the path of millions of shekels which were passed through companies and bank accounts. Lieberman stood behind these," police said in a statement.
"It was a complex money circulation system that included shell companies and accounts in Israel and abroad. People close to Lieberman were placed in charge of these to hide Lieberman's identity and disguise the fact that he was the man who was in control," police added.
Lieberman's daughter, Michal, has a consulting firm registered under her name and a bank account in Cyprus that contained millions of shekels.
According to one of the allegations, Lieberman accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes between 2001 and 2004, while serving as national infrastructures minister and as transportation minister, allegedly receiving the funds from businessmen Martin Schlaff and Michael Chernoy.
Lieberman's former attorney, Yoav Mani, attempted to refuse police access to documents pertinent to the case, claiming that they would violate his confidentiality agreement with his client.
Mani launched two failed court appeals to prevent police from obtaining the documents which were seized during a 2007 raid, but in January 2008, a Tel Aviv court allowed police to study the documents.
Mani was arrested for attempting to obstruct justice.
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