Likud’s Katz gets suspended sentence as court accepts plea deal in graft case

Court says lawmaker must pay NIS 75,000 fine for ‘conspiring to achieve a legitimate target via illegitimate means,’ but rules his actions did not constitute corruption

Likud's Haim Katz arrives at the Magistrate's Court in Rishon Lezion, February 7, 2022 (Flash90)
Likud's Haim Katz arrives at the Magistrate's Court in Rishon Lezion, February 7, 2022 (Flash90)

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Monday accepted a plea bargain reached between Likud MK Haim Katz and the prosecution, sentencing the lawmaker to a six-month suspended sentence and a fine.

Katz will pay a penalty of NIS 75,000 (approximately $23,400), according to Hebrew media reports.

According to the plea bargain, reached between Katz and the prosecution in November, Katz confessed to the lesser charge of conspiring to achieve a legitimate target via illegitimate means, but not to the more serious accusation of corruption.

The court accepted the plea bargain and found that Katz “sought to advance appropriate legislation. His actions were innocent and did not constitute any form of corruption or fault.”

Katz welcomed the court’s decision, saying he hopes to continue to serve the public.

“The court has justifiably ruled that my actions were not malicious in nature. This ruling is added to the decision by the High Court of Justice to reject appeals made against the signed plea bargain. I advanced a law that benefited all investors. Neither I nor my associates received any personal gain from the legislation,” Katz said.

“I have confessed with a heavy heart, with the purpose of continuing to serve the Israeli public and putting this story, which has followed me for years and has taken a heavy personal and professional toll, behind me,” he added.

Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz attends a Labor and Welfare committee meeting in the Knesset, June 8, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASh90)

The lawmaker 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, which benefited the adviser financially once it became law. Katz was also accused of concealing those conflicts of interest.

The indictment said 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 weaken 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.

After years of legal debates, Katz and the prosecution reached the plea bargain in November, with the condition of Katz not seeking parliamentary immunity. A month and a half later, a petition was filed with the High Court against the deal, but the court upheld the agreement.

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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