Former Belarus ambassador sentenced to 4 months

Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh tipped off Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to fraud probe, sentence to be served through community service.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday sentenced former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh to four months imprisonment, which will be served through community service, for subverting an investigation against Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
The foreign minister is under investigation for charges of fraud, breach of trust, obtaining benefits through deceit, money laundering and witness harassment.
According to a draft indictment made public more than a year ago, Liberman is suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private businesspeople through six to eight straw companies between the years 2001-2008 while a member of Knesset and holding various cabinet positions.
When Ben-Aryeh was still ambassador, in 2008, he illegally tipped off Liberman regarding an investigation into charges that the minister had accepted bribes and failed to report income to the tax authorities.
Ben-Aryeh was able to intercept aspects of the investigation since he was sent a package by the state to pass on to the Belarusian authorities requesting legal assistance – which nations sometimes give each other in gathering evidence that exists in a foreign country.
Instead of merely passing on the request and its contents to Belarus, Ben-Aryeh shared it with Liberman.
In June, Ben-Aryeh was convicted of disclosure in breach of duty and obstruction of justice as part of a plea bargain in which he admitted to sharing the classified information with Liberman.
The court noted that it could have given Ben-Aryeh a more severe sentence, but decided on a more lenient one on several grounds.
The state did push for a slightly harsher sentence, noting that requests for legal assistance to foreign nations are a very sensitive political issue, as the violation of the use of classified information also undermines other nations’ trust and desire to work with Israel on investigations in the future.
The court noted that Ben- Aryeh did not waste much of the state’s time with needless litigation, but rather expressed an early willingness to admit to the charges against him and strike a plea bargain deal.
Ben-Aryeh also benefitted from having a clean prior record and from having served the state in a distinguished manner for a number of years.
The former ambassador was also aided by Foreign Ministry officials who came to testify on his behalf regarding his character and contribution to the state.