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Likud MK indicted for graft in plea deal, will avoid jail time

Haim Katz, accused of advancing a law that benefited a close friend, will confess to a lesser charge; says he has ‘chosen to put the saga behind him’

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)

Likud MK Haim Katz was indicted Tuesday for corruption in a downgraded charge that will see him avoid jail time, after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors and said he won’t seek parliamentary immunity.

Katz has been 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 those conflicts of interest.

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 repays 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.

In a statement, Katz said Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has acknowledged that the advancement of the measure was kosher and didn’t 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.”

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

Mandelblit has agreed that prosecutors won’t 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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