Court accepts plea deal in graft case tied to top Yisrael Beytenu aides

Court accepts plea deal in graft case tied to top Yisrael Beytenu aides

Media consultant Ronen Moshe gets 9 months’ community service, NIS 900,000 fine for 2013 bid to tilt government contracts to the television ad company he represented

Media consultant Ronen Moshe. (Courtesy)
Media consultant Ronen Moshe. (Courtesy)

A Tel Aviv court accepted a plea deal Thursday with a former public relations consultant in a graft probe linked to a sprawling years-long corruption investigation of several Yisrael Beytenu officials.

As part of the deal, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted Ronen Moshe on charges of abetting fraud and breach of trust.

Moshe confessed to paying two top aides to former Yisrael Beytenu ministers — Tali Keidar, an aide to former agriculture minister Yair Shamir, and Amnon Lieberman, an aide to former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov — in an effort to obtain lucrative government advertising contracts for a public relations company he represented, Grey Content.

Lieberman was a state’s witness in the case, and Keidar had taken an earlier plea deal.

The plea deal includes a sentence of nine months’ community service for Moshe, a suspended prison term and a fine of NIS 900,000 ($256,000).

In the original indictment in the case, prosecutors accused Moshe of bribing the advisers to ensure their respective ministries bought advertising time in the “Minute to Eight” time slot, which airs at 7:59 p.m. on all major television channels, just before the prime time news broadcasts, and is thought to be the most-watched advertising minute in Israeli television.

Former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on November 21, 2017. (Flash90)

Grey Content controlled booking for the advertising slot in 2013, when the events described in the indictment took place.

Moshe’s efforts were successful. According to the Globes business journal, citing Government Advertising Agency figures, the Agriculture Ministry paid 4 million shekels ($1.14 million) to Grey Content for its “Minute to Eight” campaign during this period, while the Tourism Ministry paid 2.2 million shekels ($630,000) for its own campaign.

Prosecutors said they had agreed to strike the bribery charge from the original indictment ahead of the plea deal because Moshe had taken responsibility for his actions, had accepted the maximum allowed sentence short of serving time in prison, and because a full trial was expected to be lengthy and expensive.

Moshe said Thursday he was relieved by the court’s decision to accept the plea deal.

“I have always said the truth will come to light, and I’m happy that after almost five years, which took a very heavy toll on my family and myself, the truth won. I feel tremendous relief that this is now behind me. I’m moving forward with my head held high, and accepting responsibility for the mistake I made in an impossible and inhuman situation.”

He thanked prosecutors for the revised indictment that excluded the original bribery charge, “according to which I never bribed anyone, never offered a bribe and never agreed to offer a bribe.”

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