The man who allegedly used cash to solicit votes for Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky in the party’s primary elections last year now says he had similar dealings with a well-known Likud MK.
Party activist Avihai Amarusi told Channel 2 news Tuesday that just as Slomiansky paid tens of thousands of shekels to get people to vote for him and thus improve his ranking on the party’s slate, a similar arrangement was made with a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling party. No indication was given as to the identity of the Likud MK.
In both cases, Amarusi said, the aspiring politicians would pay him for every vote that went their way. In Slomiansky’s case, he was recorded telling a private investigator, hired by Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, that each voter had been paid NIS 1,000 in cash (about $270) and sent off to vote.
During the conversation between the two, Amarusi was recorded telling the private detective that “the guy with the complicated name” — Slomiansky — delivered to him large amounts of cash hidden inside cigarette cartons.
“Fifty thousand dollars inside two cartons of Marlboro cigarettes,” Amarusi said.
Slomiansky delivered the money in person, disguising it as a package from the Duty Free shops, though he used a courier for some of the deliveries, Amarusi also said. He added that the personal delivery was necessitated by the impossibility of sneaking such sums into the Knesset, where visitors are subjected to strict security checks.
“I made a deal with him,” said Amarusi. “‘My [Slomiansky’s] people will help you for 250,000 shekels.’” He said that Slomiansky had already paid half of the sum, noting that he had associated with the MK because the latter had access to party funds.
The Channel 2 report noted that Amarusi did not use the money for his own benefit, but rather used it to promote the finances of a Netanya yeshiva that he heads. The report added that Amarusi was considering signing a witness agreement with the State Attorney’s Office and may be seeking to increase his value to the prosecution by implicating politicians from other parties.
Bennett on Tuesday denounced ostensible corruption in his party.
In a Facebook post, Bennett confirmed that people had been caught selling their votes during the November primaries. He said he had ordered an internal investigation into the affair at the time, which resulted in the disqualification of thousands of illegitimate registrants to the party, who either didn’t exist or were still registered as members of other parties. Bennett handed the private detective’s findings over to the police after making the discovery.
Slomiansky has denied all allegations of wrongdoing, insisting he was the victim of unfounded gossip stemming from political rivalries. He noted that he had a lifetime of public service behind him, and had “never been tainted” by any hint of corruption.
Besides Slomiansky, the police questioned four other people regarding possible involvement in the buying of votes. According to Channel 2 one of those questioned had made a failed attempt to enter the Knesset on the right-wing party’s list.
People joining parties for money and voting according to the will of their sponsors “is illegal and corrupts parties,” Bennett said.
Primary elections are supposed to express the will of a party’s constituency, “but when votes are bought it gives enormous power to a small number of people,” he said. “This is one of the problems with the primaries system. I’m sorry it reached us.”
Bennett wrote that the findings of the internal investigation were handed over to the police, challenging “those who claim it’s simply a flaw in the system and there’s nothing to do about it.”
Yifa Yaakov and Aaron Kalman contributed to this report.