Fraud squad: Lieberman case solid

Police say they have clear picture of fraud, money laundering and violation of public trust.

elections2009_248 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The daughter of Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, Michal, was released by police to house arrest on Monday, after feeling unwell during the course of interrogation sessions with National Fraud Unit detectives. Police took the decision to release Michal to house arrest after calling in a doctor to examine her. Michal was taken into custody together with six Lieberman associates, including Avigdor Lieberman's former lawyer, Yoav Mani, on Sunday in a controversial police raid being described by Lieberman and members of his party as a political witch hunt launched days before the national general elections. On the other hand, the National Fraud Unit says a clear case against Lieberman has emerged, centered on the bank accounts opened in Cyprus under the name of Michal Lieberman, used to allegedly funnel millions of shekels as an illict channel for fraud and money laundering. On Sunday evening, the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court extended the custody of Mani and two other Lieberman associates, Sharon Shalom and Andy Boianjer, by five days. Magistrate Benny Sagi accepted the police's argument that Mani, who has launched two failed court appeals to try to prevent police from accessing documents seized during a 2007 raid, was attempting to disrupt the investigation. During the custody hearing, Ch.-Supt. Assaf Velpish, who heads the National Fraud Unit investigation team into the current case, told Sagi that police had succeeded in creating a solid case against Lieberman "despite attempts to disrupt [the investigation], erase evidence, and dismiss witnesses who had been questioned." Velpish added that the investigation began in 2006, "despite attempts by various elements to tell the public otherwise," and said that detectives have assembled a case which links Lieberman to money laundering, fraud, and a violation of public trust. The decision to place Mani and the two additional Lieberman associates in custody stemmed from an interrogation of Mani on Sunday morning, during which he continued to "hide behind lawyer-client confidentiality. The suspect [Mani] is continuing to lengthen his questioning session and is putting up obstacles against the investigation team which is trying to arrive at the truth," Velpish told the court. "With a heavy heart, we decided to request that the suspects be kept in custody," he added. Velpish addressed claims that the arrests were timed to damage Lieberman politically, telling the court, "Every decision taken in this case was carefully weighed and examined at the highest echelons," adding that the arrests were necessary to complete the investigation before handing the case over to state prosecutors. Lieberman too is expected to be called in for questioning, though police have not yet indicated when this will happen.