Ben-Eliezer faces new probe on financial dealings

Ben-Eliezer faces new probe on financial dealings

Police suspect MK received large sum from businessman in exchange for help in closing deals in Egypt

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

Police are investigating new corruption allegations against Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is already facing previous accusations of financial misconduct, Channel 2 reported Wednesday evening.

Investigators suspect Ben-Eliezer received hundreds of thousands of shekels from a businessman while serving as a government minister, in return for which he helped secure business deals in Egypt through his various ties there.

According to Channel 2, the unnamed businessman has been questioned by police and admitted to giving Ben-Eliezer the money, though he did not specify what exactly it was for.

Ben-Eliezer was questioned by police over the allegations on Wednesday, and the TV report said the former minister and presidential candidate did not provide satisfactory answers.

Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly questioned Ben-Eliezer’s son in the US in connection with the Israeli investigations into alleged financial improprieties by his father.

Ofir Ben-Eliezer became a key figure in the investigation after his father told investigators that his son was the source of NIS 2.75 million ($800,000) in cash that were found in his safety deposit box in a Jerusalem bank earlier this month. The MK said that he was holding the money until his son was ready to buy a house in Israel, Channel 2 reported at the time news of the investigation broke.

Israeli officials have reportedly asked Ofir to return to Israel for questioning and have also requested that the US allow Israeli investigators to question Ofir in the US if he declines to return.

Ben-Eliezer was the Labor party candidate for president before he dropped his bid for the post amid allegations that he 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, who was also questioned by police, acknowledged making a $400,000 loan to Ben-Eliezer in 2011 and denied any wrongdoing. Ben-Eliezer initially denied receiving the money, then confirmed doing so. The investigation is ongoing.

Spencer Ho and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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