A decision on whether or not to indict Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for allegedly receiving bribes will be made within a month, before Israel's upcoming election, the country's State Prosecutor's Office said Thursday. If Lieberman is indicted he will be prohibited from serving as a minister in the next government.
The State Prosecutor announced the final decision in response to a High Court petition demanding to know whether a decision to indict would be made before Israelis head to the polls on January 22, 2013.
In April 2011, Weinstein announced that he had tentatively decided to indict Lieberman on charges of fraud, breach of trust, aggravated fraud, money laundering and witness tampering - and has since held hearings with the foreign minister's lawyers.
According to an earlier draft indictment, Lieberman is suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private business people through straw companies between 2001 and 2008, while he was a member of parliament and cabinet minister, but before he took up his present ministerial portfolio.
Lieberman has consistently protested his innocence, and said the prolonged police investigation meant not only that there was no real evidence against him, but also constituted a political witch hunt. He has said he will resign from parliament if an indictment is filed. It was unclear whether he would continue to campaign for parliament if indicted, and whether he would remain head of his ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beteinu party.
In a statement, the State Prosecutor repeated its claims that Lieberman's case is "complex which required numerous investigations in Israel and abroad. Dozens of suspects and witnesses have been questioned, as well as dozens of search warrants and various searches in which thousands of documents were found. It is also important to note that many of the central witnesses in the case do not reside in Israel."
The State Prosecutor's response Thursday came hours after prosecutors filed an appeal Wednesday against the verdict and sentence given to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on corruption charges.
Investigations against Lieberman have been ongoing for 12 years. The two previous investigations were closed in 2008, eight years after they were opened. The current investigation started in 2006. In the summer of 2009, the police filed a case with the State Prosecutor's finance department, recommending he be tried. Former Attorney General Menny Mazuz did not reach a decision in time, and it was passed on to Weinstein, who will soon be completing three years in his position.
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