Justice Ministry charges Liberman in court for fraud

Former FM expected to face more serious charges as court receives updated indictment for breach of public trust and fraud.

Avigdor Liberman 521 ok (photo credit: Reuters)
Avigdor Liberman 521 ok
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Justice Ministry filed an updated indictment against Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday morning after the former foreign minister was charged for fraud and breach of trust.

On Thursday, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein presented the Knesset with an updated indictment against Liberman regarding the Belarus Ambassador Affair.

The main change in the updated indictment is that Liberman’s alleged involvement in helping former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh to become ambassador to Latvia is now described as more active than passive.

The change follows questioning of the members of the Foreign Ministry’s appointments panel, including Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, and the requestioning of Liberman.

The indictment still focuses on Liberman’s failure to report that Ben-Aryeh illegally leaked to him information regarding an investigation against him for an alleged massive money-laundering scheme, and on allegations that Liberman acted on Ben-Aryeh’s behalf to get jobs at the Foreign Ministry as a “payment” of sorts after the fact.

Liberman resigned as foreign minister and waived his parliamentary immunity two weeks ago when the initial draft indictment was presented to the Knesset.

The Justice Ministry spokesman explained on Thursday that since Liberman had only waived his parliamentary immunity regarding that draft indictment out of an abundance of caution, Weinstein resubmitted the updated document to the Knesset so Liberman could once again waive his immunity regarding the new, somewhat more serious charges.

The indictment now indicates that Liberman discussed the possible ambassadorship with Ben-Aryeh when the latter asked him for advice, and he told Ben-Aryeh that he would support his candidacy.

Next, the updated document says, Liberman summoned Ayalon and told him that they should appoint Ben-Aryeh to the ambassadorship.
Ayalon, in his capacity as deputy foreign minister, served as chairman of the ministry’s seven-person “higher appointments” committee responsible for filling vacancies at embassies and consulates abroad, including who would receive the Latvia ambassadorship.
Liberman told Ayalon that Ben-Aryeh was the most qualified candidate for the job, although he did not mention to Ayalon the earlier incident in which Ben-Aryeh had leaked to Liberman information, according to the indictment.
Ayalon, who barely knew Ben-Aryeh, then acted, based on Liberman’s encouragement and documents before the committee, to try to ensure his appointment, the indictment says.
The document does not specify what actions Ayalon took in that regard, although the issue will probably be fleshed out by witnesses in court.
Liberman issued a statement responding to the amended indictment by again denying any criminal wrongdoing. He said nothing had changed in light of the questioning of additional witnesses and allegations that he asked Ayalon to appoint Ben-Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia.
Liberman said he wanted the issue to be clarified in court, and to that end had already informed the Knesset that he was waiving his parliamentary immunity – in addition to having quit his post as foreign minister – so that the matter could be quickly resolved in court.
“All rumors about a plea bargain, as well as other rumors, are without foundation, and the truth will emerge in the court,” he said.