Interior Minister Aryeh Deri received NIS 200,000 ($57,000) to his private bank account from an Israeli businessman, the Haaretz newspaper reported Friday.
Deri reportedly failed to disclose the money he received from Ilan Sharabi, which was given to him shortly after he announced his return to political life, but before he had resumed leadership of the Shas party.
In the beginning of 2016 Deri was appointed to head the Interior Ministry.
On February 23, Sharabi, who has been a close friend of Deri for many years, held a meeting with him, and asked him for assistance in a legal issue involving the Ramat Hasharon municipality which also affected his company, the paper reported. Deri is said to have instructed his ministry to look into the matter.
Sharabi said that he gave the money to Deri as a loan and it was fully repaid. Deri reportedly told investigators that he had forgotten about the money he received from the businessman.
The paper said that several months ago, Deri met with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community, telling him he wished to return the money and asking for his advice. Kanievsky told him he should give the money back, but police reportedly told him that doing so could harm their investigation.
Haaretz reported that despite the police warning, Deri returned the money five years after it was deposited into his bank account. Sharabi had reportedly given Deri other loans in the past which were all repaid.
All ministers are required to notify the State Comptroller of any possible conflicts of interest, including any loans or gifts they received. The Haaretz report stated that Deri failed to do so.
The investigation is a joint effort of the Israel Police, Tel Aviv Income Tax Investigation Division of the Tax Authority, and the Justice Ministry’s Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, under the supervision of the attorney general.
In addition to reportedly failing to disclose the loan, Deri, who has been questioned five times in the investigation, is suspected of diverting hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds to NGOs run by members of his immediate family, as well as committing alleged tax fraud linked to the sale of apartments to his brother.
Deri has denied any wrongdoing on his part or that of his wife in any of the cases, and said the couple would “give answers to all the questions” and cooperate fully with the investigation.
Deri served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002, after he was convicted of taking bribes as interior minister in the 1990s.
He reclaimed the leadership of his Shas party shortly before the 2015 Knesset elections, replacing Eli Yishai. He returned to his Interior Ministry post earlier this year, after a court ruled his prior conviction did not disqualify him from the position.