Lobbyist indicted for bribery in Yisrael Beytenu graft case

Lobbyist indicted for bribery in Yisrael Beytenu graft case

Yisrael Yehoshua accused of setting up bribes between elected officials and public bodies looking for government funding

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative. Handcuffs in a courthouse. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Illustrative. Handcuffs in a courthouse. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Prosecutors filed an indictment Sunday against a lobbyist with ties to the Yisrael Beytenu party on suspicion that he arranged for various public bodies to receive government funding in return for payoffs to elected officials.

Yisrael Yehoshua, owner of the lobbying company Segulah L’Yisrael, was charged at the Tel Aviv District Court with bribery, money laundering and tax offenses.

The development came as part of a far-reaching corruption investigation into the Yisrael Beytenu party, which is chaired by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman. Liberman himself is not a suspect in the case, which has felled other party officials, including former deputy interior minister Faina Kirshenbaum.

According to the indictment, Yehoshua asked various public bodies for large sums of money — mostly to be paid in cash — in return for obtaining government funding. Yehoshua allegedly explained that some of the money would go to elected officials who would be involved in approving the budget allocations, the statement said.

Then deputy interior minister Faina Kirshenbaum attends a conference of Yisrael Beytenu activists in the West Bank settlement of Ariel on December 30, 2014. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Prosecutors said Yehoshua was in contact with the Megilot Regional Council as well as some of the communities under its jurisdiction, and obtained for them government funding amounting to NIS 24 million ($6.43m), from which he received a commission of NIS 3 million. Some of the commission was then allegedly passed on to elected officials.

It was also alleged that at the request of Krishenbaum, Yehoshua asked the then head of the Megilot council, Mordechai Dehman, to pay a fixed monthly fee to the Izrusnews website as a condition for the council to receive NIS 3 million ($800,000) of state money that was under the control of Yisrael Beytenu.

The council paid the website NIS 250,000 ($67,000) and the payments only stopped when the police corruption investigation began.

Dehman turned state witness after being implicated in the Yisrael Beytenu corruption case.

An attorney for Yehoshua dismissed the charges, saying that Dehman, the state witness that provided the information, had “bought his freedom with a failed attempt to incriminate others.”

Ten people in total, among them top former local politicians and party officials, have been charged with a range of financial felonies in one of the most far-reaching public corruption cases in Israel’s history.

The three-year investigation, known as Case 242, became public in December 2014, with the arrest of 36 serving and former officials. The arrests came about four months before the 2015 election, which saw Yisrael Beytenu shrink to six seats, leading to accusations by party officials that it amounted to a political witch hunt.

In July, the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced former party headquarters chief David Godovsky to seven years in prison after he was convicted of four counts of taking bribes, three of money laundering, and two for requesting bribes.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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