Top presidential contender probed for millions received

Top presidential contender probed for millions received

Four days before election, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer questioned under caution over funding for Jaffa home, unpaid taxes

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, April 30, 2014, in Tel Aviv. (AP/Dan Balilty)
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, April 30, 2014, in Tel Aviv. (AP/Dan Balilty)

Presidential contender and Labor party MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was questioned by police Friday for nearly five hours on suspicion that he illegally received millions of shekels from various sources, including funding for a luxury apartment home in Jaffa. He was also questioned over millions of NIS in his bank account for which authorities suspect he did not pay taxes.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered police to investigate Ben-Eliezer after he received information earlier in the week regarding the latter’s allegedly improper dealings, Channel 2 reported.

Police suspect Ben-Eliezer may have acquired the funds necessary to purchase his apartment in Jaffa’s upscale Laura complex in exchange for providing Israeli businessman Abraham Nanikashvili with certain unspecified services. The apartment, which Ben-Eliezer bought two years ago, is worth close to NIS 9 million (a little over $2.5 million). Nanikashvili’s net worth is estimated at over $1 billion.

Abraham Nanikashvili (Facebook)
Abraham Nanikashvili (Facebook)

Ben-Eliezer was reportedly asked about a NIS 400,000 (nearly $115,00) deposit in his bank account which was made by Nanikashvili, according to Channel 10. The Labor party MK stated that he had legally borrowed the money from the Israeli billionaire, the report added. The tycoon, who was also questioned, said he had loaned Ben-Eliezer the money and denied any wrongdoing, Channel 2 said.

The MK, a former general and defense minister, was questioned under caution and will be question again on Saturday night.

A spokesperson for Ben-Eliezer said the timing of the investigation, only four days before the presidential elections, was “odd.”

“Ben-Eliezer asks that the relevant parties complete the investigation as soon as possible so that the truth may be brought to the public’s knowledge,” the spokesperson added.

According to Ynet, a source close to Ben-Eliezer said the presidential candidate had been investigated over the matter in the past and had fully complied with police requests.

Israel’s next president will be picked from among six candidates by the 120 Knesset members in a confidential vote set for June 10.

Aside from Ben-Eliezer, the candidates are Reuven Rivlin of the Likud, Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit, former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, and Chemistry Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Shechtman.

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