Former top Yisrael Beitenu MK detained in massive corruption case

Dozens of suspects have been detained and arrested, including top members of the Yisrael Beitenu party and a number of local politicians and public officials who are not members of the party

Faina Kirschenbaum  (photo credit: KNESSET)
Faina Kirschenbaum
(photo credit: KNESSET)
Former Yisrael Beytenu MK and deputy minister Faina Kirschenbaum was detained by police and questioned under caution for several hours on Sunday, as part of a corruption investigation involving top officials from the party and their associates.
Kirschenbaum was released on condition that she not make any contact with any of the other suspects, and police also secured a travel ban which prevents her from leaving the country.
Police also carried out a search at the former deputy interior minister’s house, during which they seized a computer and other material they said is relevant to the investigation.
The Yisrael Beytenu case broke in December of last year and so far dozens of suspects have been questioned, including Yisrael Beytenu chief of staff David Godovsky and other party members, as well as local politicians and public officials who are not members of the party.
The case includes more than 15 smaller corruption cases, most of which involve bribery and/or fraud and breach of trust. In most of the cases, state funds were allegedly sent to local authorities and NGOs with kickbacks sent to Kirschenbaum and/ or her associates, who were in charge of allocating the funds. In some cases, jobs or government tenders for state-funded projects were allegedly given in exchange for money.
At the top of the investigation is Kirschenbaum, whom police have described as the ringleader who arranged or oversaw most of the bribery cases involved.
In addition to Kirschenbaum and Godovsky, well over two dozen suspects have been brought in for questioning or arrested by police, including former Yisrael Beytenu tourism minister Stas Meseznikov, Anti-Drug Authority head Yair Geller, Avner Kopel, the former head of the Israel Basketball Super League, and Doron Simchi, the head of the Israel Handball Association.
Many of those arrested or questioned under caution in the case are suspected of having played a much smaller role and police have worked in recent months to persuade them to cooperate with the investigation.
On Saturday, Police Insp.-Gen.
Yochanan Danino said that investigators are already working with six state’s witnesses to build the case.
He said the case is one of the biggest corruption cases ever seen in Israel and that police had no choice but to go public with the case in December and not wait until after the national elections in March.