Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday defended himself against charges of corruption, after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed him that he was considering indicting him pending a hearing.
Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party was holding a convention in Jerusalem as the attorney
general released his statement at nightfall. Lieberman was about to deliver his speech when he was informed of the statement. He delayed his remarks.
At the end of a half-hour speech about Israeli domestic and foreign policy,
Lieberman briefly referred to the indictment.
"I know and you know that I always acted in accordance with the law, and there is no reason for worry," Lieberman said. "After 15 years, I finally will have an opportunity to prove that I acted lawfully."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his support behind Lieberman in the wake of the news. "I bless Lieberman to prove his innocence," Netanyahu said. "I have worked with him for a long time, he is a central member of the government, and I hope he will continue in his public contributions."
Lieberman will be granted the right to a hearing to try to prevent the indictment, which focuses on charges of fraud, money laundering, and breach of trust.
If Lieberman chooses to engage in the hearing, he will not need to resign from the cabinet. However if Lieberman passes on a hearing in order to prevent exposing his line of defense during a trial, an indictment will be served against him which may bear serious consequences to his role in the cabinet.
Over the past several weeks, Weinstein has been refining the wording of the draft indictment, which was the subject of much debate among those composing the document.
The discussion between the State Prosecution and the Attorney General regarding Lieberman's case continued for more than a year and a half, since the head of the police investigations and intelligence division, Yoav Segalovich, recommended putting Lieberman on trial.
Segalovich recommended indicting Lieberman on charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, witness harassment, and obstruction of justice.
Police believe that he received more than NIS 10 million in bribes from businessmen including Martin Schlaff and Michael Chernoy. The money was allegedly laundered via a series of shell companies and fictitious bank accounts overseas.
The police also recommended indicting Lieberman for breach of trust in the case of Israel's former ambassador to Belarus, Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, who showed Lieberman secret documents from the investigation against Lieberman.
During the discussions between the prosecution and the Attorney General, it seems that they have dropped the bribery clause, however the exact wording of the draft indictment will only be known once Weinstein makes the announcement.
Even though the term "bribery" carries more serious meaning in the public arena, the punishment for money laundering is more serious than bribery, which could be up to a 10-year prison sentence as opposed to seven.
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