Immigration minister denies 'ethical violations'

But Ya'acov Edri says he will step down if indicted for offering to use influence in exchange for High Holy Day cards.

edri 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
edri 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Immigration and Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri (Kadima) struck back and declared his innocence Thursday, a day after police issued a prime-time evening announcement that their detectives had recommended that the minister be indicted for what they termed "ethical violations." Detectives claim that while acting as deputy public security minister, Edri placed an order for High Holy Day cards and instead of planning to pay for them, allegedly offered to use his influence in the ministry to promote a local police commander. "I am simply shocked and appalled," said Edri on Army Radio Thursday. "I don't want to detail the number of phone calls that I've received by people who are shocked as well. Together with that, I trust that the state attorney will look into the matter and will make a quick decision that this cannot be turned into judicial torture." The probe is tied in to the larger police investigation of possible corruption at the Haifa Rabbinical Court. Edri allegedly placed the order for the cards through one of Haifa Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Shalush's close associates. Ultimately - police and suspect alike agree - the cards were never delivered, although the reason why is still unclear. Edri claims to have called off the deal, but police argue that even the initial arrangement is sufficient to justify criminal charges. In the event that prosecutors do determine that the evidence is sufficient to indict the minister, Edri promised that he would step down. Edri only became a focus of the probe tangentially when, in February of last year, he arrived at police offices to offer a statement regarding the Haifa rabbinic court scandal that broke during the fall of 2006. At the time, representatives of the National Fraud Squad said that Edri had first been asked to come and offer a statement, but during questioning, police said, it became "necessary" to question the minister under warning. Police believe that Shalush's driver - who was also allegedly in contact with Edri - acted as a go-between, giving bribes to the rabbinic court secretary responsible for determining the composition of the rabbinic tribunals, as well as to Rabbi Yigal Krispil, the then-adviser to Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, allegedly to influence the deliberations of the rabbinic court.