High court to NGO: We can't intervene to reopen case against Liberman which A-G had closed

Court pressures NGO into dropping petition to reopen money-laundering case against Liberman which A-G had closed.

By
September 29, 2013 12:02
2 minute read.
High Court of Justice

High Court of Justice 370. (photo credit: yonah jeremy bob)

Under explicit pressure from the High Court of Justice, OMETZ on Sunday abandoned its petition to reopen a multimillion- dollar money-laundering case against former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, which Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein had closed.

The petition by the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel (OMETZ) was the last chance to revive the case, ongoing for more than a decade, against the Yisrael Beytenu party leader.

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According to a draft indictment (which was never filed once a final decision was made by Weinstein to close the case), relating to the money-laundering case, Liberman was suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private business people through straw companies between the years 2001 and 2008 while he was a member of Knesset and a cabinet minister.

In December, Weinstein decided to close the primary (money-laundering) case against Liberman and submitted an indictment against him only on the much-narrower Belarus Ambassador Affair.

In the hearing, the court blasted OMETZ repeatedly on its attempt to intervene in one of the prime areas under an attorney-general’s discretion – whether to file an indictment against a defendant or to close a case against him.

OMETZ argued that Weinstein should have heeded State Attorney Moshe Lador and other senior officials in the Justice Ministry who advocated indicting Liberman in the money-laundering affair.

The NGO pointed to alternative interpretations to what Weinstein eventually concluded from the evidence.

For example, OMETZ said that a key witness from Cyprus who had helped manage Liberman’s companies, referred to as “Daniella,” told investigators that Liberman stayed connected to his companies while in public service, including at times during which he maintained that he had cut all ties.

When he closed the case, Weinstein said – and the state repeated before the High Court – that “it was unclear” whether Daniella “would cooperate,” because she later contradicted her initial statements on the issue, and whether she would agree to travel from Cyprus to Israel.

OMETZ said it was clear that Daniella “would cooperate,” as she “showed up to all meetings,” as requested by investigators when they went to see her in Cyprus.

The court responded that all government entities have a hierarchy which must be respected and that it was Weinstein’s prerogative as the top legal official in the executive branch to overrule his subordinates, however senior they might be.

Regarding the specific evidence which OMETZ challenged, the court suggested that simply because there was evidence against Liberman or that theoretically another attorney-general might have viewed it differently, that could not justify a court intervention in Weinstein’s decision.

The court said this was especially true because, whether or not an indictment was filed, it became apparent that getting a conviction would have been complicated.

The trial in the Belarus Ambassador Affair has been concluded. Liberman is awaiting the verdict, which may determine his political future; the court has not yet scheduled a date for its announcement.


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