Ex-cabinet secretary detained in Yisrael Beytenu corruption probe
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Ex-cabinet secretary detained in Yisrael Beytenu corruption probe

Leading PR consultant, two civil servants also questioned in connection with far-reaching investigation

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 15, 2014. (photo credit: Ben Kelmer/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 15, 2014. (photo credit: Ben Kelmer/Flash90)

A former cabinet secretary and a leading public relations consultant were detained by police for questioning Monday morning in the ongoing investigation of alleged corruption connected to the Yisrael Beytenu party.

Two women in the employ of the civil service were also detained on suspicion of channeling government funds to various causes in exchange for profit.

Police said they raided the homes and offices of the four suspects, confiscating computers and documents.

Officials said the former cabinet secretary, now the owner of a strategic consulting firm, was suspected of accepting a bribe from government officials in order to employ a specific PR agency in a project sponsored by the government. The PR consultant was suspected of bribing civil servants in order to win bids for government projects.

It was not clear whether the PR agencies mentioned in the allegations against the two officials were one and the same.

Authorities will review the evidence against the four and decide later in the day whether to place them under arrest.

Police sources told Israel Radio that at least three Knesset members – one of them a minister – would also be questioned in the coming days.

The massive corruption scandal implicating Yisrael Beytenu officials has rocked the party since it became public last month, with dozens of members and their associates arrested and questioned in regards to allegations of corruption and bribery.

It also saw the resignation of deputy interior minister and Liberman confidante Faina Kirshenbaum, the highest-level suspect in the case.

Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting, May 19, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting, May 19, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

Police said a year-long covert investigation revealed a large system by which politicians funneled money and favors to local bodies and other groups, as well as their members, in exchange for kickbacks.

Suspects “conspired in a calculated manner to advance their personal and public interests and to receive money for personal use, while committing various crimes in a manner that significantly impeded the administration of their areas of governance,” police said in a statement.

The party’s electoral standing has been significantly hampered by the probe, with some polls projecting the party will lose over half of its current 13 Knesset seats in the March 17 elections.

Meanwhile the party has been losing its most senior figures at an alarming rate: agriculture minister Yair Shamir, tourism minister Uzi Landau, public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman David Rotem have all have stepped down from political life since news of the scandal broke on December 25.

Haviv Rettig Gur and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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