Shas party leader Aryeh Deri indicted for tax offenses after plea deal

Agreement expected to see opposition lawmaker, who has previously been jailed for bribery, resign from Knesset but possibly return as soon as next elections

Shas MK Aryeh Deri at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas MK Aryeh Deri at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shas party leader Aryeh Deri was indicted Sunday on tax offense charges as part of a plea deal that will see him resign from the Knesset but likely be eligible to run again as soon as the next parliamentary elections.

Under the plea deal, Deri will not be convicted of moral turpitude, allowing him to one day return as a minister, although such a move could later be challenged in court.

Deri told the Knesset speaker last week that he will not ask the Knesset to grant him immunity in the case and will resign as a lawmaker. He intends to admit to not reporting income in two cases and is expected to pay a NIS 180,000 fine.

Deri, a former interior minister, previously served time for a bribery conviction before returning to the Knesset in 2013.

In January, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he intended to file criminal charges against Deri, pending a hearing.

Deri had initially been suspected of bribery when the investigation began five years ago, but Mandelblit ended up accusing him of the lesser offenses of failing to report income to tax authorities on two occasions and additional tax offenses committed while selling Jerusalem apartments to his brother Shlomo Deri.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a farewell ceremony held for outgoing state attorney Shai Nitzan at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on December 18, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In 2018, police recommended filing charges against Deri on suspicion of committing fraud, breach of trust, obstructing court proceedings, money laundering and tax offenses involving millions of shekels. In 2019, then-state prosecutor Shai Nitzan similarly recommended charging the Shas chairman, but many of those charges were ultimately dropped earlier this year.

Under the final plea deal announced Thursday, Deri will admit to just two offenses: failing to accurately report the value of a property he sold to his brother in 2013 — which Deri had valued at NIS 4.25 million ($1.3 million) but was actually worth close to NIS 6 million ($1.9 million); and helping his brother write a false statement about the property’s true value.

Deri said in a statement following the announcement that he had “decided to take responsibility for mistakes that were made without any malevolent intent, to put the affair behind me and avoid an entire trial on the matter.”

He stressed, however, that he would continue to lead the Shas party “with full force and faith.”

Former leader of the Shas party Aryeh Deri on his way to Ma’asiyahu prison on September 3, 2000, convicted of taking $155,000 in bribes while serving as interior minister. Deri was given a three-year jail sentence, but was ultimately released after 22 months for good behavior. (Flash90)

Deri served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002, after he was convicted of taking bribes as interior minister in the 1990s. He reclaimed the leadership of Shas shortly before the 2015 Knesset elections, ousting Eli Yishai, who had led the party in his absence.

He returned to his Interior Ministry post in 2016, after a court ruled that his prior conviction did not disqualify him from the position.

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