Police found almost two million shekels in a saftey deposit box belonging to former presidential contender and senior Labor lawmaker Benjamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer, only two days after a controversial corruption investigation against Ben-Eliezer forced him to drop out of the presidential race some have already described at the ugliest in Israel's history.
Ben-Eliezer was taken in for five hours of questioning by the police on Friday, and was grilled on his purchase of an apartment worth at least NIS 8 million in Jaffa. The police are investigating the transfer of some 1.4 million shekel from businessman Abraham Nanikashvili to the former presidential candidate.
Ben-Eliezer's legal troubles grow (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Meanwhile, current presidential frontrunner the Likud's MK Reuven Rivlin approached Prime Minister Netanyahu and shook his hand, saying "I was born into Herut (the historical Likud) movement, and I have never left the movement, not for any temptation or illicit fund."
Frontrunner Reuven Rivlin (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Rivlin addressed Likud MKs saying "tomorrow can be my greatest hour, but also our movement's greatest hour."
Monday brought with it additional allegations after police raided a Jerusalem safe deposit belonging to Ben-Eliezer. Police also suspect Ben-Eliezer of handing in false testimony regarding an additional investigation currently under gag order. Affiliates said the MK denies the allegations and claims the testimony was true.
An additional investigation regarding Nanikashvili affiliate Jacky Ben-Zaken claims that Ben-Zaken transferred at least 35,000 NIS to Ben-Eliezer in 2005.
Ben-Eliezer sent a sharply worded letter to the head of the police anti-trust and fraud unit, in which he lamented the long string of leaks regarding the investigation. A Chanel 10 report from Sunday evening claimed that the police had the information on Ben-Eliezer for over a year, rising question regarding the timing of their publication.
Ben-Eliezer said that he was "shocked from the (police's) discovery," adding that if they had the information beforehand "why didn't they call me in a year ago."
He further described the situation as "difficult" and said that in light of ongoing leaks from the police he would "consider his next steps" in regards to the investigation.
In the letter, his lawyer, Navot Tel Zur, described it as "an unprecedented wave of leaks from the investigation, with every hour bringing with it new discoveries , most of which are false.
"Ben-Eliezer has made himself available for the investigation, despite the short notice and the curious timing in which it began," he wrote.
"However, his best intentions and his belief in the investigation's integrity are met time and time again with this slanderous campaign which has been on the rise against him, while he has yet to be given a chance to supply explanations."
The investigation against Ben-Eliezer was made public on Friday, less than a week before the election, set for Tuesday June 10th. According to allegations, over the years millions of NIS were transferred to the MK, with some of the money going into the bank accounts of close friends and relatives.
In addition, the police received information that Nanikashvili, an energy magnate who holds control over Shemen, transferred large funds to Ben-Eliezer. The main focus of the investigation is the transfer of some 1.4 million NIS to the MK from Nanikashvili. An intial investigation by the police revealed that the money was transferred directly from the business man to the MK.
Nanikashvili told the police that the money was a loan given to the MK to purchase the home in Jaffa, and further claimed the two signed legal paperwork stipulating the loan's conditions.
"Everything I gave was legal," Nanikashvili claimed. His lawyer, Natan Simhoni, added that "Mr. Nanikashvili is being investigated and he is cooperating with his investigators, despite deny all the allegations against him."