Former FM Lieberman questioned again by police over ambassador affair
Police surmise that the former foreign minister is unlikely to be charged with bribery on top of fraud and breach of trust.
Police questioned former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman under caution for 40 minutes late on Tuesday about his promotion of Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus. Lieberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, has been indicted for fraud and breach of trust in the case.
Investigators from the police’s Lahav 433 national fraud unit gathered testimony from each member of the Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee who gave their versions of the appointment process. Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, a former Israeli ambassador in Belarus, was promoted to ambassador to Latvia.
Contrary to some reports, the police said Lieberman was unlikely to be charged with bribery, though officials added that now the evidence against Lieberman was much more sound.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon also gave testimony to the investigators, who now have the testimony of every committee member. Ayalon’s testimony is the most significant; he headed the committee. According to his testimony, Lieberman turned directly to Ayalon regarding Ben Aryeh’s appointment.
The committee members were questioned about the entire process. The investigators even gave the committee members documents and written reports on Ben Aryeh’s activities.
The committee members were asked whether they had seen these documents at any stage of the discussions. Some were asked whether they knew about the existence of reports on Ben Aryeh’s work and chose to disregard them because of Lieberman’s intentions.
The committee members said that at no stage did they know or have suspicions that Ben Aryeh passed documents on to Lieberman. Some committee members said the only thing they knew was that Lieberman wanted to see Ben Aryeh, as an associate of the minister, in the role of ambassador to Latvia.
Also, despite the additional investigation into Lieberman announced this week, police sources say there will be no change in the indictment for fraud and breach of trust. So as the investigation proceeds, it appears less likely that a bribery charge will be added.
The investigators focused on only one issue in the appointment process: Did Lieberman influence the appointment committee’s decision? Expected to change is the evidential basis on the charge sheet, which could strengthen the prosecution’s stance if it wants to impose a ruling of moral turpitude on Lieberman, which would damage his political future.
If the investigators feel that the minister has not cooperated enough, and that his testimony does not match those of the committee members, they will consider comparing Lieberman’s testimony to one of the members − possibly Ayalon, who served as Lieberman’s deputy.