Former Israeli Official Slams Attorney Generals for Handling of Lieberman Case

Former head of prosecution's economic crimes division says case of 'shell companies' attributed to ex-FM Avigdor Lieberman's 'should have gone to court, pure and simple.'

Avia Alef, the former head of the economic crimes division at the State Prosecutor's Office, is claiming that "the case of the shell companies attributed to Avigdor Lieberman should have gone to court, pure and simple."

Alef, who before retiring this month was closely involved in the police investigation into the former foreign minister, told the Markerweek magazine in an article published this week that "There was a reasonable chance of conviction, and from the standpoint of the public interest, there's never been a clearer case."

Alef joined the prosecution in 1987 and spent the last nine years heading the economic crimes division at the State Prosecutor's Office, which handles the most complex economic cases and those involving public figures. Now, she is criticizing the way the case was handled by two attorney generals - the incumbent, Yehuda Weinstein, and his predecessor, Menachem Mazuz.

Lieberman was suspected of receiving large sums of money via a series of shell companies while serving as foreign minister. Most of the companies were located in Cyprus, and one was owned by his daughter, Michal. But Weinstein decided to close this case due to lack of evidence and instead indict him only for fraud and breach of trust over his appointment of Ze'ev Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia.

Alef said the lengthy delay in deciding whether to indict Lieberman was primarily Mazuz's fault: Toward the end of his term, he decided not to make the decision, but to leave it for his successor, who took office in February 2010.

"In 2009, there was a completed opinion prepared by our department with a recommendation to indict, and a draft indictment ready to go," she said. "I thought it would have been proper for the previous attorney general, Mazuz, to make the initial decision in the case. I thought a new attorney general would need time to study the case, which in retrospect proved correct."

Nevertheless, Alef said, Weinstein also contributed to the delay by engaging in "excessive scrutiny" of the case.

"The evidentiary threshold he set in discussions of the decision on whether to file an indictment was too high," she continued. "I have a feeling that what was done in this case was overdone. I understand they wanted to scrutinize a case that wasn't simple, but the timetable therefore kept getting more and more drawn out. What happened here didn't happen in any other case. When you check again and again, the passage of time worsens the situation. You shouldn't ignore circumstantial evidence in the case and you should check everything carefully, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If the overall picture that emerges leads to a certain conclusion, then you need to go with it."