Lieberman: Reports That Missing Aide Laundered Money Are Nonsense’

Reports remind him of past investigations that 'remained in the realm of science fiction,' foreign minister says.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister and the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister and the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, November 17, 2014. Emil Salman

Reports that police are investigating allegations that a missing former media consultant to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was involved in laundering money are “a flood of nonsense, invention and fictions,” Lieberman said Wednesday, in his first comments on the reports.

Israel Radio reported this week that police are investigating whether the consultant, Michael Palkov, who disappeared about six months ago and was rumored to have been killed or to have faked his death, was involved in the corruption scandal involving senior figures in Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Michael Palkov, Lieberman's adviser,  in a 2007 photo.
Motti Kimchi

Lieberman said on Wednesday that the reports reminded him of the 1997 investigations into his own ties to businessman Grigori Lerner, who was convicted of fraud and money laundering. The foreign minister said those allegations “all remained in the realm of science fiction, and the same holds for the stories about Palkov.”

The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman said Palkov worked in the party’s public relations office until March 2005. He said Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who was the chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Office at the time, brought Palkov to the PMO as a consultant to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“A few years later Palkov launched [Russian-language Israeli news site] IzRus and became a well-known figure with connections throughout Israel’s Russian-speaking community,” Lieberman said, adding that “from media reports and a statement from his family, we saw that Palkov keeps in touch with his family and friends in Israel.”

Everything else that has been published about the topic “can at best be called the products of individuals with sick imaginations,” said Lieberman.

According to the Israel Radio report, Palkov is suspected of laundering funds through IzRus.

In August, Russian news website Regnum, a relatively unknown agency that is not particularly influential in the Russian media, reported that the Ukrainian army had found Palkov’s passport next to a charred corpse. Citing a “security source,” the report indicated that the apparent cause of death was torture, and noted that the Ukrainian authorities had prohibited publication of the incident.

According to other reports, Palkov faked his death, both to avoid police investigations due to threats on his life.

The Israel Police said that if Palkov were in Israel, he would have been called in for questioning in connection to the Yisrael Beiteinu corruption investigation.

The Regnum report described Palkov as an editor of a Russian-language news website in Israel that was established to serve Lieberman’s media interests, and said he used the position to collect incriminating information.

“Paklov also used the website as a cover for collecting incriminating information against various officials and businessmen with Israeli citizenship in Russia and Ukraine, or who had family members in Israel,” the article said. “He also took interest in Israeli officials, businessmen and politicians from the former Soviet Union.”

The article said Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum of Yisrael Beiteinu, the prime figure in the party corruption scandal, got additional coverage on Palkov’s website because she served as a go-between who helped Palkov meet with those interested in receiving the incriminating information.