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Cigarette packets Photo: Gabi Menashe
Cigarette packets Photo: Gabi Menashe
 
 

Police probing alleged primaries fraud

Investigators believe major party's internal elections tainted by voter bribery scandal

Tzvika Brot
Published: 02.25.13, 14:10 / Israel News

The 19th Knesset's promise of cleaner politics has already been sullied by an alleged voter bribery scandal, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

 

According to the report, over the last few months the police have been conducting a corruption investigation into one of the major parties in the House.  

 

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Senior Knesset sources said that in the coming days, at least one MK will find himself the subject of a police investigation. A testimony in the case describes "bags of money" and "cigarette packets stuffed with cash," as well as claims that illegal payments were made to registrants.

 

The police are looking into the allegations, which include the claim that the MK was involved in bribing a "ballot lobbyist." Police sources were willing to confirm only that the suspect was not a party head.

 

According to available details, during the primaries the suspect contacted a "ballot lobbyist," requesting his support for the election.

 

The police suspect that the man, or his close associates, funneled money to the "lobbyist" in order to fund registration fees of those involved in the primaries, effectively buying their vote ahead of the party's primaries. .

 

This time, unlike in past cases, there are also audio recordings with descriptions given to a private investigator, who was hired by another candidate. The MK in question vehemently denied the allegations against him. 

 

Cash in cigarette packets

On one of the recordings, the "lobbyist" is heard telling the undercover investigator – a man he believes to be a potential donor: "I will describe things that you won't believe. There are packets of Marlboros. They tell you they brought you cigarettes from the Duty Free. Then there are two packets, with $50,000 inside."

 

When the investigator asks, "Did he himself (the MK) bring it to you?" the "ballot lobbyist" answered "Yes, yes. And part was by way of his messenger. He... took out a bag with NIS 100,000 just like at the Bank of Israel. Hard cash."

 

The man continued: "You won’t believe the level I stooped to with them. You feel bad because these are not things you're supposed to do...  When I see registrants, I say 'this is the time (for you) to milk them (the politicians). They need you to support them, and the only way to do this is to give money. NIS 100,000, NIS 200,000 – those are amounts that can help us.'"

 

The man soliciting the votes and receiving the money was not talking about sums he kept to himself but rather, money that was passed onto the bodies for which he worked.

 

According to the police, the system was as follows: Every new party registrant is expected to pay for his entry, but not everyone is ready, or willing, to pay the amounts required. The "ballot lobbyists," who are interested in buying as many votes as possible, try to sponsor large registrant pools – ensuring they come to the polls on election day and cast "the right" vote. 

 

A senior Knesset member said Sunday that, "In the coming days, the undercover investigation will become public, it is likely that additional politicians will be called in for questioning or to give testimony."

 

Attorney Robbie Sharabi, representing one of the "ballot lobbyists" arrested in the affair said Sunday, "This is a sensitive subject, as an investigation is currently being carried out, so I can’t publicly reply.

 

"I hope the truth comes out, and that the guilt does not fall on those who shouldn’t be held responsible for the acts of politicians. This story will reveal the truth behind how the primaries work in Israel."

 

 

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