The Knesset’s Ethics Committee said Wednesday it would not discuss complaints it received against Likud MK Oren Hazan, following television exposés accusing him of soliciting prostitutes and using crystal meth while working as the manager of a Bulgarian casino.
Eyal Yinon, the Knesset’s legal adviser, ruled that the Ethics Committee has no jurisdiction over Hazan’s past behavior, despite claims that Hazan’s conduct is detrimental to the Knesset’s public standing.
The committee nevertheless stressed that “the decision does not detract from the severity with which its members regard Hazan’s purported acts, if it they indeed took place,” Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin, the chairman of the committee, said in a statement Wednesday.
In light of the “severe damage” the report had caused the parliament’s “dignity and standing,” Vaknin affirmed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s “correct decision” to strike Hazan from the roster of deputy speakers who preside over plenum sessions.
The Ethics Committee can impose sanctions on the parliamentary activity of Knesset members, including excluding them from sessions and banning them from submitting bills, but it cannot keep them from voting on bills.
In a Channel 2 report aired in June, titled “Prostitutes, drugs and the deputy speaker of the Knesset,” two Israeli tourists and a casino employee said that Hazan would hire prostitutes for his guests in the Burgas casino in which he held a stake. He also used crystal meth on multiple occasions, witnesses said. Both prostitution and hard-drug use are illegal in Bulgaria.
The report quoted Hazan’s chauffeur in Bulgaria to the effect that Hazan would send him to the Red Rose escort service to pick up prostitutes a few times a week for his friends. Hazan would cover the cost of the prostitutes, at some €50 ($56) an hour, the driver said.
Hazan has maintained that he never managed the casino, but rather a hotel “where there was also a casino,” and that it was managed by a person he had no contact with.
According to the report, however, the casino in question is not inside a hotel, and the hotel he claimed to have managed has had the same management for over 20 years — and it is not Hazan.
A week after the Channel 2 report aired, a number of young women formerly employed by Hazan came forward and said the 33-year-old freshman lawmaker would often touch them inappropriately, brush up against them as if it was unintentional and take off his clothes after nights of heavy drinking.