Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman was summoned on Sunday for another round of questioning after new evidence surfaced in his breach-of-trust case.
Liberman, who resigned from his post as foreign minister last week — after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that he would indict Liberman on charges of breach of trust and fraud — will be called in for further police questioning some time this week to respond to new information that investigators have dug up on his case, and which may require altering his indictment sheet. The indictment was to have been served later last week.
The impending charges stem from an incident in which Liberman allegedly received and failed to report classified Justice Ministry documents in an envelope from former ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben Aryeh. The documents he received were related to a separate investigation against Liberman on fraud and money-laundering charges; those charges were dropped earlier this month due to lack of evidence.
According to the indictment, Liberman’s failure to report the Ben Aryeh incident to the Cabinet and to a Foreign Ministry appointment committee that later considered appointing Ben Aryeh to a second ambassadorship — an appointment that did not ultimately occur — constituted a felony.
Hours after Weinstein announced the pending indictment earlier this month, Liberman held a press conference in which he said that Ben Aryeh tried to give him information not because Liberman had asked him to do so, but because Ben Aryeh had chosen to do so.
Channel 2’s legal affairs analyst Guy Peleg said Sunday that the investigation was apparently relaunched because one of the appointment committee’s members gave testimony this week that contradicted Liberman’s earlier testimony, indicating that the ex-minister sought to influence committee members to grant Ben Aryeh the ambassadorial appointment.
Liberman has denied rewarding Ben Aryeh in any way, noting that the ambassador was “head and shoulders” above other candidates for a subsequent job as ambassador to Latvia and that it would have been wrong to punish Ben Aryeh over the envelope incident by seeking to block such an appointment.
The embattled head of the Yisrael Beytenu party expressed several times after he stepped down as foreign minister that he hoped to have the case against him closed in time for the upcoming elections on January 22. However, the investigation’s resumption may prevent Liberman from serving as a minister at least in the early period of the next government.
If Liberman is convicted and sentenced to three or more months in prison and if the court determines that the case involved moral turpitude, he would be banned from reentering politics for seven years. But according to legal analysts, a breach-of-trust conviction for a politician has never carried both moral turpitude and a three-month (or more) prison sentence.