Police recommend indicting Lieberman
National Fraud Unit says has solid case against foreign minister, suggests charges include fraud, bribery, money laundering and breach of trust. Lieberman: The more political power Yisrael Beiteinu and I gain the worse the attempts to force me out of public life get
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman may soon face criminal charges, as the National Fraud Unit recommended Sunday he be indicted for fraud, bribery, fraudulently obtaining benefits, money laundering and breach of trust.
The National Fraud Unit also alleges that the foreign minister attempted to obstruct the investigation and badgered a witness, and plans to ask charges of obstruction of justice and witness harassment be added to any future indictment.
Commander Yoav Segalovich, head of the police investigations and Intelligence unit, turned the inquiry's results and the police recommendations to the Attorney General's Office, for further review.
"I have been persecuted by the police for the past 13 years," said Lieberman in a statement. "The more political power Yisrael Beiteinu and I gain the worse the attempts to force me out of public life get. There was never any reason to launch an investigation in the first place," added the statement.
Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night that
Lieberman and Lieberman alone will be the one to decide on the future of the Foreign Ministry portfolio, if and when a decision on an indictment is made.
"It would be up to Lieberman to decide what happens to the portfolio… and he would be the one to name his replacement," said a source in the PM's camp. The source refused to speculate on which of Yisrael Beiteinu's Knesset members may be called upon to substitute for Lieberman.
Another source in the Prime Minister's Office added that even if an indictment is filed, Yisrael Beiteinu will remain a part of Netanyahu's coalition. "It isn’t in Lieberman's interest to pull his party out of the government. Once he is no longer a minister and they start losing ground, things can go wrong.
"We believe it is unlikely that Yisrael Beiteinu would leave the coalition, even if Lieberman is no longer a part of it."
Lieberman has been the focus of several police investigations since the late 1990, including alleged campaign financing infractions, receiving illegal funds from business tycoon Martin Schlaf – a case which also implicated the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman of receiving money transfers via fictitious accounts registered in Cyprus – and another case of supposedly obtaining illegal benefits, this time involving a company run by his daughter.
According to police sources, key evidence in the case against the foreign minister came from a political source, who came across information incriminating Lieberman by chance.
The police believe the scope of the monetary infractions allegedly committed by Lieberman may amount to NIS 10 million (approx. $2.64 million) and that the money was funneled through six to eight dummy-corporations, in a time period parallel to his tenures in the Transportation, National Infrastructure and Strategic Affairs ministries.
'This is a complex investigation'
The source gave the incriminating information to the State Comptroller's Office in 2006. The subsequent review led to the police reopening the case, originally opened in 2001. The new evidence was also enough for the attorney general to grant a police motion for a covert investigation.
In December of 2007 the court granted the police's motion and stripped Lieberman of attorney-client privileges in regards to files seized in a raid of his attorney's office. The Yisrael Beiteinu chief appealed the decision, but in August 2008 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the police again, allowing investigators to examine the files. The information led the police to Cyprus, where thousands of new documents were seized, reportedly implicating him further.
The police sped up the investigation against Lieberman yet again after he was named foreign minister – this time at his request. He was questioned by the Financial Crime Unit several times and the National Fraud Unit, having concluded its official investigation two weeks ago, has been working on the indictment recommendation since.
Police sources told Ynet they expected the State Prosecutor's Office to begin working on the case in the next few weeks.
The State Prosecutor's Office briefed the High Court of the police recommendation, since Lieberman had petitioned against Attorney General Menachem Mazuz in the past, claiming the investigation against him was unduly prolonged.
The State's memorandum informed the courts that the police have found sufficient evidentiary basis in the case and that it is now under a State Prosecutor's Office review. Mazuz, added the memo, will be called upon to make the final decision in the case and his office "will make it a top priority."
A Justice Ministry statement added: "This is a complex investigation, which includes compiling thousands of documents and taking numerous depositions from local and overseas sources."
Roni Sofer contributed to this report