A-G indicts Shas Party leader Arye Deri for minor tax crimes

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit filed an indictment for minor tax crimes against Deri, following a leak that said he would not agree to any plea deal with any serious political consequences.

Shas leader MK Arye Deri is seen at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas leader MK Arye Deri is seen at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and the Economic Department of the State Attorney’s Office on Sunday filed an indictment for minor tax crimes against MK and Shas Party leader Arye Deri in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

The formal indictment comes after the sides announced a plea bargain last Thursday in which Deri will resign from the Knesset, admit to minor tax offenses, pay a NIS 180,000 fine and avoid prison time.

Despite that announcement, Deri had to formally waive his parliamentary immunity to allow the indictment to go forward on Sunday.

Due to Deri’s public commitment to resign from the Knesset, Mandelblit on Thursday said he would not seek a finding of moral turpitude, which could block Deri from running for the next Knesset.

Deri will be able to remain Shas chairman and initially, at least, be able to run for the next Knesset.

OPPOSITION LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu with Shas head Arye Deri and UTJ MK Ya’acov Litzman during a meeting with the opposition parties at the Knesset this week. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)OPPOSITION LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu with Shas head Arye Deri and UTJ MK Ya’acov Litzman during a meeting with the opposition parties at the Knesset this week. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

After he quits the Knesset, he will be replaced by French-born former MK Rabbi Yosef Taieb.

His quitting the Knesset is expected before a court hears and endorses the plea deal, with the hearing still to be scheduled. This could happen in the coming days or take longer, but it will occur before Mandelblit steps down on February 1.

Whether Deri will be able to be a minister in any future government will likely be decided only if he is nominated and after an expected petition is filed with the High Court of Justice.

The plea deal does not include a finding of moral turpitude, which automatically disqualifies politicians for seven years. However, Deri will have the unique distinction of having been previously convicted for bribery, sent to jail, banned from politics for almost 10 years, returning and then being convicted again.

Anti-corruption NGOs have already threatened to file petitions to the High Court against the deal, saying it is too lenient and that it should bar Deri from politics and send him to jail.

Multiple leaks about the deal came last week after a prior leak on November 25, presumably by Deri’s messengers, which said he would not agree to any plea deal with any serious political consequences that would force Mandelblit to file an indictment the next day.

Deri released a statement on Thursday expressing gratitude to God for helping him and his family endure the seven-year investigation. He said he would take responsibility for his mistakes on his taxes.

“The probe started with great fanfare and very harsh suspicions, and it ended with Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit saying the case did not even end up being a molehill,” Deri said. “I will continue to focus on my public service and to lead Shas with full force and faith.”

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.