Recent discussions held at the State Prosecutor's Office and the Attorney General's Office indicate that the major corruption case against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will be closed, but it is very likely that he will be indicted on a lesser charge of breach of trust involving the promotion of former Israeli ambassador to Belarus Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, Channel 2 News reported Thursday.
In April 2011 Justice Ministry officials announced that Lieberman, who heads the Yisrael Beiteinu party, faced possible charges of fraud, money laundering and witness tampering.
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Prosecutors suspect Lieberman of using shell companies and third-party accounts to receive more than $1.2 million illicitly while in public office, including from foreign businessmen with interests in Israel.
However, Channel 2 reported, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to close the case against him after the State Prosecutor's Office realized some three weeks ago that its key witness, an accountant from Cyprus who had implicated Lieberman in her original testimony, intended to testify in favor, not against, Lieberman at a trial.
However, there is a distinct possibility that the foreign minister will be indicted in the case involving former ambassador Ben Aryeh, who was convicted of passing information to Lieberman - before he was appointed foreign minister - regarding the police investigation against him.
Plea bargain expected. Lieberman (Photo: Yossi Zamir)
Ben Aryeh, who served as the ambassador to Belarus between 2004-2009, was convicted in May 2012 under a plea bargain of obstructing justice and passing information to an unauthorized person.
During a hearing at the Jerusalem District Court, he was handed a four-month sentence, which the judge converted to community service.
In October 2008, Ben Aryeh tipped off Lieberman, who was visiting Minsk as an MK, that Israeli police had contacted their counterparts in Belarus for help with a probe into crimes allegedly committed by the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman.
During the visit, the ambassador briefed Lieberman on the issue and handed him a confidential document relating to the investigation, the court found.
The prosecution plans to argue that Lieberman had breached the public's trust by assisting Ben Aryeh in his efforts to be appointed ambassador to Latvia. The committee that discussed the appointment was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Lieberman's right-hand man. The appointment was later approved by a different committee and by the government. Lieberman did not reveal his personal relationship with Ben Aryeh throughout the entire process.
The decision to indict Lieberman is not final. The prosecution does not have substantial evidence, but it plans to claim that Lieberman's general conduct throughout the appointment process constituted breach of trust.
Legal sources estimate that this case will also end in a plea bargain.
Reuters, AFP contributed