State shelves one probe against Lieberman

But investigation into allegations of bribery, fraud and money laundering to continue.

lieberman 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
lieberman 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The state on Monday announced it was dropping one of its criminal investigations against MK Avigdor Lieberman but was continuing to investigate other allegations including bribery, fraud, breach of faith, false registration in corporation documents and money laundering. The announcement came in a letter sent by Raz Nizri, senior assistant to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, to Lieberman's lawyers, Yaron Kostelitz and Ya'acov Weinroth. Nizri wrote that senior state prosecution and police officials had met a few days earlier to discuss the case and decided to "shelve the file against your client regarding violations of the Political Party Financing Law which were investigated under file 18/01, because of lack of sufficient evidence to file an indictment." Nizri added that the case investigating suspicions of fraud, breach of faith and false registration in corporate documents regarding the party he founded, Israel Beiteinu, and of having received bribes from businessman and Likud activist David Appel - would also be closed. According to Nizri, the original investigation against Lieberman began in 2001 and not in 1998, as Kostelitz and Weinroth maintained in a petition to the High Court filed on July 27. They petitioned the High Court to order the state to decide once and for all to either indict Lieberman or close the file against him. In 2006, while police were investigating the original suspicions, they announced that they had opened an investigation into another matter which, they said, may have been related to the first. According to the suspicions, Lieberman was hired by an Austrian bank which stood to lose a large sum of money because of a crisis in the Russian ruble. The development occurred in 1998, just after Lieberman resigned as director-general of the Prime Minister's Office under then-prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. According to reports, the bank paid Lieberman $3 million dollars for his intervention. Police believe Lieberman may have used alleged contacts with the Russian mafia to restabilize the ruble. They also believe he may have kept a large part of his payment from the Austrian bank in Cyprus and not brought it to Israel and declared it as income. In explaining why this investigation was still ongoing after two years, Nizri wrote, "The investigation is being conducted abroad and this takes a long time because of lack of cooperation [on the part of the foreign governments.] Therefore, we cannot estimate when the investigation will be completed." Nizri also stressed that the law enforcement authorities began to consider shelving the first investigation and continuing the second one three weeks before Lieberman petitioned the High Court, so that no one would get the impression that the decision was made out of fear of what the High Court might say about the police and prosecution's handling of the investigation.