Former top Yisrael Beytenu leaders likely to face corruption indictments

A-G to give the former public officials a last chance to plead their case at a special pre-indictment hearing.

Faina Kirschenbaum (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Faina Kirschenbaum
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced Monday that he will likely indict former Yisrael Beytenu ministers Stas Meseznikov and Faina Kirschenbaum and 14 others for bribery, fraud, money-laundering and, in one case, drug offenses.
Meseznikov was tourism minister and Faina Kirschenbaum was deputy interior minister until the scandal broke in December 2014. The 14 others include former ministry CEOs and former heads of quasi-governmental bodies and regional councils.
Other suspects may still be indicted beyond the 16 already in Mandelblit’s crosshairs.
Mandelblit said they will have a last chance to plead their case at a special pre-indictment hearing before him as former public officials.
Already in October 2015, the police recommended indictments to the prosecution, saying there was evidence of criminal offenses against more than a dozen public officials, including the two former Yisrael Beytenu MKs.
The primary charges include evidence of bribery, fraud, money laundering, and breach of trust, falsifying documents, and obstruction of justice from 2009-2014.
Meseznikov stands accused of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and illegal drug smuggling and use. Kirschenbaum is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, falsifying documents, and money laundering.
Case 242 – known in the media and to the public as “the Yisrael Beytenu case” – has involved more than 15 smaller corruption investigations involving bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
According to police, the conspiracy allegedly involved a series of conspiracies by the suspects – including 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 up to the accomplices in the conspiracy.
Kirschenbaum alone is said to have worked the scheme with the Samaria Development Company, the Ayalim Association, the Binyamin Regional Council, the Ezra Association and from the National Anti-Drug and Alcohol Abuse Authority.
Besides skimming funds off the budgets that Kirschenbaum granted to the various public bodies, she, her family members, and members of Yisrael Beytenu also received free hotel rooms, expensive electronics, paid jobs and a range of other illegal quid pro quo benefits.
Police said the public officials 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 the pockets of the conspirators.
Meseznikov in particular gave NIS 1 million to the city of Eilat for a festival there in exchange for hiring his wife as a consultant and paying her tens of thousands of shekels. He also sent aides to procure cocaine and other drugs for his use.
In October 2015, police named 21 suspects against whom they found evidence, including Meseznikov and Kirschenbaum, as well as former chief of staff of the Yisrael Beytenu Party, David Godovsky; former Agricultural Ministry CEO Rami Cohen; former CEO of Netivei Israel (formerly the Israel National Roads Company), Yeshiyahu “Shay” Beres; Tamar Regional Council head Dov Litvinoff; and powerful lobbyist and former Jerusalem branch chairman of the Likud, Yisrael Yehoshua, among others.
Police have signed deals with a number of state’s witnesses, but the actual number remains under a gag order.
Altogether, police said they had 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 2014, then-police commissioner Yohanan Danino called it one of the largest corruption investigations ever seen in the history of Israel.