A-G may reopen probe on Nili Priel’s illegal worker

Weinstein informs Barak’s wife that her offer to pay a fine for violations in employing a migrant worker "unacceptable."

Nili Priel (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Nili Priel
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday informed Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s wife, Nili Priel, that her offer to pay a fine for employing a migrant worker with permission to work as a helper but not as a housekeeper was unacceptable.
Weinstein’s senior aide, attorney Raz Nazri, who wrote the letter to Priel, also informed her that the investigation, which he recently closed, may be reopened if investigators find “additional information” related to the case.
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The additional information that Nazri mentioned referred to the possibility that officials of the Population, Migration and Border Crossing Authorities would track down the housekeeper, who has been identified as “Virginia.”
Two weeks ago, the attorney-general announced he was closing the case against Priel for lack of sufficient evidence, specifically mentioning the fact that the Migration Authority had been unable to find the housekeeper.
Several days later, however, Israel Radio’s military correspondent, Carmela Menashe, interviewed “Virginia” on the morning newsreel program, apparently locating her without a problem.
In the wake of the interview, several watchdog organizations, including The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Ometz and The Movement for Quality Government and at least one Knesset member, Shlomo Molla (Kadima), called on Weinstein to reopen the investigation. Some accused Weinstein of giving Priel favorable treatment because of her husband’s senior position.
But Weinstein, through Nazri, informed Priel on Thursday that her recent offer to pay a fine and thereby close the case, was unacceptable.
“According to the directives by which the prosecution in the Population, Migration and Border Crossings Authorities operate, the circumstances in your case justify filing a criminal indictment rather than levying an administrative fine,” he wrote. “The reason for this is because the migrant worker had a permit to work in the helping branch but was employed for a relatively long time in housekeeping.”
Nazri added that the attorney-general had “instructed the Population, Migration and Border Crossing Authorities, which routinely deals with these matters, to act [in this case] in accordance with the usual policy. In the circumstances of this affair, it will not be possible to suffice with a fine.”
He made it clear that at this point, the attorney-general had still not decided to reopen the investigation. However, “the appropriate people in the Migration Authority will look into whether there is new information which might make it possible to locate the migrant worker,” wrote Nazri. “In this context, we will also consider the possibility of summoning you to another interrogation in light of the facts which the authority might uncover following and in the wake of the announcement of the decision [to close the case.]” The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel welcomed Weinstein’s decision not to suffice with a fine but to try Priel on criminal charges if there was enough evidence to justify doing so.
The organization filed a petition earlier this week demanding that the attorney-general reopen the investigation and that he also interrogate Barak, who allegedly knew about the housekeeper’s illegal employment.
Attorney Hila Cohen, a legal representative of the forum, also called on Weinstein to widen the investigation against Priel to include allegations that she lied to the police when she told them she did not have the housekeeper’s phone number. In her interview with Menashe on Israel Radio, “Virginia” said Priel did have her phone number.