Police recommend criminal charges against dozens in massive graft case

Ex-MKs Meseznikov, Kirschenbaum likely face indictment.

Yisrael Beytenu announces new party list in Jerusalem, January 19, 2015 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yisrael Beytenu announces new party list in Jerusalem, January 19, 2015
There is evidence of criminal offenses against 36 public officials, including two former Yisrael Beytenu MKs, police said on Wednesday, announcing the completion of their investigation into one of the biggest public corruption cases in the history of Israel.
Among those likely to face charges in the case are former tourism minister Stas Meseznikov and former MK and deputy minister Faina Kirschenbaum, both from the Yisrael Beytenu Party.
Police said they found evidence of bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, falsifying documents and obstruction of justice, among others. Meseznikov stands accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and Kirschenbaum of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, falsifying documents and money laundering.
The investigation will now be handed over to the Attorney-General’s Office to decide whether to file indictments.
Case 242 involves more than 15 other smaller corruption investigations concerning bribery and/or fraud and breach of trust. According to police, the case involves a series of conspiracies by the suspects – a large number of public officials and local council heads – to pass state funds and inflated budgets for different state bodies and NGOs, a percentage of which was then kicked back to the accomplices.
Police said the public officials used their positions to move state funds to public projects from which they would skim money, or they would move the funds to different public bodies in order to receive favors or jobs for associates. The suspects sought out local council heads and heads of NGOs who were looking to receive special budgetary supplements and would look the other way if some of the money went into their pockets.
Besides Meseznikov and Kirschenbaum, the suspects include former Yisrael Beytenu chief of staff David Godovsky, Alexander Wiznitzer, former chairman of the NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd., Yeshiyahu Beres, former CEO of Netivei Israel, Shaul Mizrachi, the former head of Local Government Economic Services, Ltd., Tamar Regional Council head Dov Litvinoff, former Anti-Drug Authority head Yair Geller, and Yisrael Yehoshua, a powerful lobbyist and former Jerusalem branch chairman of the Likud, among others.
The police stipulated that Yitzhak Miron, the mayor of Afula and former head of the Likud branch in that city, who had been arrested during the investigation, has been cleared of wrongdoing in the case.
Police have signed plea bargains with some state’s witnesses, but the actual number is under a gag order.
Altogether, police said they have investigated some 480 people of interest in the case and have seized more than NIS 25 million in assets.
When the case broke in December of last year, then-police commissioner Yohanan Danino called it one of the largest corruption investigations ever seen in the history of the state.
Police Intelligence and Investigations Branch head Asst.-Ch. Meni Yitzhaki said Wednesday that the investigation revealed senior public officials with “deep, serious moral failings” who showed “warped criminal management and exploitation of their access to public coffers.”
Yitzhaki also said that police findings from the investigation would be sent to officials in the Justice and Finance ministries so that lessons could be learned that could prevent future theft of public funds.