Interior minister questioned again in graft probe
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Interior minister questioned again in graft probe

Aryeh Deri says he answered all the investigators' questions on allegations he diverted state funds to NGOs run by members of his immediate family

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri speaks at an Interior Affairs Committee meeting regarding the deportation of African asylum seekers at the Knesset, January 29, 2018. (Alster/Flash90)
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri speaks at an Interior Affairs Committee meeting regarding the deportation of African asylum seekers at the Knesset, January 29, 2018. (Alster/Flash90)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was questioned for the ninth time on Tuesday at the offices of the Israel Police’s anti-corruption unit Lahav 433, in an ongoing investigation into a slew of corruption suspicions against him.

After the questioning ended, Deri took to Twitter to say that, as with “all the previous times, I answered all the questions I was asked.”

“Everything is good, and God willing, it will be even better,” Deri said.

“I am now free to dedicate myself to trying to solve the military conscription law crisis and preserve the coalition,” he added.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has been threatening to topple the government if the state budget for 2019 isn’t passed within the next weeks, sparking a government crisis with Ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, which is conditioning its support for the budget on the approval of a law exempting Haredi yeshiva students from enlisting in the IDF — a bill opposed by the ruling Likud party and coalition partners Yisrael Beytenu.

Deri, the leader of ultra-Orthodox party Shas, is suspected of diverting hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds to NGOs run by members of his immediate family, as well as suspected tax fraud linked to the sale of apartments to his brother.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (l) and his wife Yaffa seen leaving their home in Jerusalem, on May 29, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In some of the previous rounds of interrogations in July, August, and September, investigators questioned both Deri and his wife, Yaffa, who runs two of the organizations, Mifalot Simcha and Yehudia Yaale, that allegedly received the public funds.

They face possible charges of theft, fraud, and tax evasion.

Yaffa Deri is suspected of using money donated to her nonprofit organizations to purchase real estate. She has joined her husband for two of the previous rounds of questioning.

Both Deris have been questioned under caution as criminal suspects.

Aryeh Deri has previously denied any wrongdoing on his part or his wife’s, and said the couple would “give answers to all the questions,” and cooperate fully with the investigation.

Deri already 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 2015’s Knesset elections, replacing Eli Yishai. He returned to his Interior Ministry post last year, after a court ruled his prior conviction did not disqualify him from the position.

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