Police urge charges for dozens of officials in massive graft case
search

Police urge charges for dozens of officials in massive graft case

Concluding investigation into alleged scheme trading political favors for kickbacks, police recommend indicting 36 suspects, including several former Yisrael Beytenu lawmakers

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Faina Kirshenbaum attends a conference of Yisrael Beytenu activists in Ariel, on December 30, 2014, days after being questioned in a corruption probe. (Gili Yaari/FLASH90)
Faina Kirshenbaum attends a conference of Yisrael Beytenu activists in Ariel, on December 30, 2014, days after being questioned in a corruption probe. (Gili Yaari/FLASH90)

Israel Police said Wednesday that they would recommend indicting 36 current and former public officials, including several former lawmakers from the Yisrael Beytenu party, as part of one of the biggest corruption cases in the country’s history.

The results of the probe are to be handed over to the State Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to indict the suspects over allegations of systemic corruption.

Among the suspects are former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov and former deputy interior minister Faina Kirshenbaum, both from the Yisrael Beytenu party.

Megilot Regional Council head Mordechai Dehman, Tamar Regional Council head Dov Litvinoff, former Agriculture Ministry director-general Rami Cohen, Yisrael Beytenu party headquarters chief David Godovsky and Afula Mayor Yitzhak Miron and his deputy Boris Yudis are also likely to be indicted, police said.

The announcement wraps up a nearly two-year investigation that broke into the open in December as police arrested dozens of public officials and raided their homes and offices.

Police said then that a year-long covert investigation revealed a labyrinthine system in which politicians funneled public funds and favors to local bodies and other groups, as well as their members, in exchange for kickbacks.

The suspects “conspired in a calculated manner to advance their personal and public interests and to receive money for personal use, while committing various crimes in a manner that significantly impeded the administration of their areas of governance,” police said in a statement at the time.

Investigators say that large sums of money were inappropriately funneled to non-government organizations and various other groups. In return, those groups allegedly made nepotistic appointments, and also circulated some of the favors back to public service officials in the form of cash kickbacks and benefits.

“The covert investigation revealed a calculated method wherein the suspects and their representatives unlawfully transferred, using their powers as public officials, large sums of public funds to [various] bodies and authorities, in exchange for large benefits for them or their associates, including appointments, payments and more,” a police statement said.

Suspects “conspired in a calculated manner to advance their personal and public interests and to receive money for personal use, while committing various crimes in a manner that significantly impeded the administration of their areas of governance,” police said in a statement.

The raid came several months before Israelis headed to the polls to elect a new Knesset in March.

Party leader Avigdor Liberman, who saw his faction shrink to six seats, accused police of an ongoing witch hunt against him.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

read more:
comments