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High Court upholds Likud MK’s plea deal in corruption case

Petitioners had claimed Haim Katz shouldn’t be allowed to get off without prison time in exchange for confessing to a lesser charge

Likud MK Haim Katz attends a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on September 3, 2020. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Likud MK Haim Katz attends a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on September 3, 2020. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Israel’s top court on Sunday rejected a petition filed against a plea deal cut between Likud MK Haim Katz and prosecutors in November, which saw the lawmaker avoid prison time, after being indicted for corruption in a downgraded charge.

The petitioners had sought to annul the arrangement over what they said was harm to the public interest.

According to the petitioners, the plea deal deviated drastically from the required punishment in such a corruption case. But the High Court of Justice upheld the agreement, signed under Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Katz was accused of advancing a bill on corporate bond repayment sought by a financial consultant who was a close friend and financial adviser to Katz himself, and which benefited the adviser financially once it became law. Katz was also accused of concealing a conflict of interest in the case.

The indictment centered on allegations that Katz, while serving as chairman of the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee from 2005 to 2006, and again from 2009 to 2013, advanced Amendment 44 to the Securities Law, at the request of businessman Mordechai Ben Ari.

The law stipulates that companies must repay bond debt to small bondholders before they repay controlling owners — an attempt to buck the influence of wealthy and powerful investors in order to help protect the interests of small investors. Ben Ari’s business represents groups of such small bondholders in several companies.

According to the plea bargain, Katz will confess to the lesser charge of conspiring to achieve a legitimate target via illegitimate means. Katz and prosecutors will then jointly ask the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court to sentence Katz to a suspended sentence and a fine.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference in Tel Aviv, on June 29, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

In a statement in November, Katz said Mandelblit acknowledged the advancement of the measure was kosher and did not yield any personal gain for himself.

“The charges against me relate to the information I should have brought before the Knesset committee members. I take full responsibility for that,” he said. “Over the past five years, I have paid a high personal and public price, because the [legal] process is the punishment, and I have chosen to reach a deal and put the saga behind me.”

Mandelblit has agreed that prosecutors will not ask the court to hand Katz a sentence that entails moral turpitude, meaning he will be eligible to become the next chairman of KKL-JNF as planned.

Another case in which Katz was suspected of evading tax payments has been closed, due to difficulty in obtaining sufficient evidence.

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