Lieberman Hits Back: Court Must Probe Police Leaks in Graft Case

Embattled FM turns on police as prosecution nears decision on embezzlement indictment.

In an effort to avert criminal charges against him now widely seen as inevitable, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday called on the Supreme Court to investigate the Chief of Police for leaking details of the case.

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said on Tuesday that that the attorney general was close to a decision on whether to indict Lieberman on charges bribery, money laundering, fraud, obstructing the course of justice and tampering with evidence.

In an interview with Channel 1 television, Lador said:

"It is a matter of weeks until we decide whether he should be invited for a hearing, assuming the attorney general decides there are criminal suspicions."

But on Wednesday Lieberman sought to turn the tables on investigators, asking why the attorney general had halted inquiries into leaks of police material to the press.

"Yesterday we approached the attorney general with a request to open a criminal investigation into the Chief of Police," Lieberman said on Wednesday.

"The information leaked to the media is twisted an tendentious and any relation with reality is entirely coincidental," he said.

He continued: "When I left the interrogation room I was forbidden by the police to talk about and part of the proceedings. Imagine my astonishment when shortly after my departure all the details were revealed by the office of the Chief of Police in a twisted manner that has obstructed the course of the inquiry."

Lieberman is suspected of setting up a series of front companies in order to embezzle more than NIS 10 million.

Police fraud investigators questioned Lieberman for two hours on Tuesday on new suspicions of disrupting legal proceedings and breach of trust.

Police suspect that as early as October 2008, Lieberman received official police and Justice Ministry investigative material.

A probe into fraud and embezzlement allegations was then in its early stages, and none of Lieberman's associates had yet been questioned or arrested.

Police also suspect Israel's former ambassador to Belarus, Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, showed Lieberman secret documents from the investigation.

Ben Aryeh, currently Israel's ambassador to Lithuania and Latvia, rose allegedly received the Justice Ministry documents via the Foreign Ministry in the summer of 2008. They contained a request for information from the Belarus authorities regarding a major investigation against Lieberman.

The envelope was stamped "secret," and contained a list of all suspicions against Lieberman, as well as substantial detail of the evidence. The request focused on identifying the real owners of bank accounts in Belarus registered with local companies.

Ben Aryeh allegedly did not pass the envelope to the Belarus authorities, instead copying classified information and relaying it to Lieberman during the minister's visit to the country in October 2008.

Ben Aryeh confirmed during questioning that he did open the envelope, kept some of the information and presented it to Lieberman.

Lieberman apparently told the investigators that he was given the envelope but neither saw nor made use of its contents.

Those close to him say he did not commit any wrongdoing and that the claims are overblown.

Lieberman is not likely to be questioned again in this case. Police are widely expected to recommend an indictment.