"One of the largest public corruption investigations in Israel," as the State Attorney's office describes it, has reached the stage of submitting indictments.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan decided on Monday that sufficient evidence existed to try 16 senior figures in a corruption scandal centered on Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu party. Two such figures who are expected to be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust are former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and former Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum.
Misezhnikov is also likely to be charged with use of a dangerous drug. This charge rose relatively late in the police investigation from the evidence of one of the state's principal witnesses, a personal assistant to the former minister. According to this person, his boss, both in Israel and abroad, would send him to purchase cocaine for him.
In addition to the fact that purchasing and consuming cocaine is illegal, Misezhnikov's use of the drag apparently had deleterious effects on his job performance in some of his trips. It has been alleged that he was absent from events that were planned for him.
In response to the decision to indict on Monday, Misezhnikov commented, "Read the draft indictment, and think back on what surrounded the affair two years ago, read my lawyer's response and maybe you'll finally start to ask pointed questions to law enforcement authorities." Referencing the Jewish tradition before Rosh Hashanah, he added, "In the spirit of the time, each of us should do his own reckoning."
The former minister's lawyer, Yuval Sasson, was more detailed in his response: "The draft indictment reveals that during Misezhnikov's arrest in December 2014 as part of the (corruption) affair was a pointless arrest that was apparently merely intended to feature in the headlines. The draft is not comprehensive and not one charge touches another in the affair.
Tova Tzimuki, Itamar Eichner and Yuval Karni contributed to this report.