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Aryeh Deri names self as politician at center of ‘severe’ corruption probe

Attorney general approves preliminary investigation into interior minister and an associate in two separate cases

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (R) arrives at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem for the weekly cabinet meeting, March 6, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (R) arrives at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem for the weekly cabinet meeting, March 6, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Authorities have been investigating two senior Israeli politicians in two separate corruption cases, according to reports Tuesday night in multiple news outlets.

News of one case was broken by Channel 2 news, with Haaretz reporting shortly afterward on the second. Details of the investigations were withheld from the public by a court-imposed gag order.

But shortly after midnight Tuesday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he had asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to request a lifting of the gag order.

“I turned to the attorney general today and demanded that the gag order be lifted on anything related to me,” he said in a late-night statement on Twitter. “I notified him that I will cooperate fully with investigators and answer every question they ask.”

Both investigations are in a preliminary stage, and none of the suspects have been questioned under caution.

File: Avichai Mandelblit arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on January 17, 2016. (Amit Shabi/POOL)
File: Avichai Mandelblit arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem on January 17, 2016. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

Mandelblit held a meeting of top law enforcement officials Tuesday to determine whether to interrogate one of the politicians under caution.

One of the cases involves suspicions of “severe” corruption, Channel 2 said.

Haaretz said the second case, which was deemed less severe, related to suspicions of illegal political funding by an “interested party.”

It was not immediately clear which case refers to Deri.

The second politician is said to be a close ally of Deri, but his name remains under gag order.

Haaretz said the investigations into both cases began after the Knesset elections last March.

In response to a Channel 2 request for comment, the office of one of the senior politicians said: “He does not know anything about the issue.”

The case could have dramatic repercussions for Deri, as well as the coalition.

Deri served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002 after he was convicted of taking bribes while serving as interior minister, the post he holds today. He leads the Shas party list in the Knesset, which is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu narrow 61-59 majority in the parliament.

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