Police grill Lieberman for second time in three days
Foreign Minister suspected of bribery, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust; denies all charges.
Police questioned Avigdor Lieberman as part of a corruption investigation on Friday for the second time since he was sworn in as foreign minister earlier this week.
Fraud squad detectives questioned the foreign minister, who is also chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, for more than five hours and said another round was likely in the coming week.
On Thursday, Lieberman was questioned for more than seven hours over suspicions of bribery, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, less than a day after he took office.
National fraud unit detectives questioned him under caution as part of a probe into his business-dealings proceeds.
Police sources said Lieberman may be indicted within a few months. Lieberman denies any wrongdoing and says the probe is politically motivated.
Lieberman's with the detectives came after a senior member of his right-wing party, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, assumed the position of public security minister in charge of police.
Police have questioned Lieberman several times throughout his political career. Since he was questioned about an alleged money laundering affair in April 2007, detectives have gathered thousands of possibly incriminating documents.
About 1,000 of these documents were confiscated from Lieberman's attorney's office. Some 2,500 additional ones were gathered by the investigation team in Cyprus. These detail the activities of various companies that constituted part of Lieberman and his colleagues' laundering network. They include bank documents listing money transfers and several accounts allegedly opened by Lieberman's associates.
The detectives believe they have evidence tying Lieberman to the money transfers made to the Cyprus accounts.
Tel Aviv Magistrate Benny Sagi studied the evidence compiled by the police in January about the bank accounts attributed to Lieberman in January, concluding that "the inquiry has taken another most significant turn, which increases the suspicion."
Lieberman is not suspected of one-time transfers or of transferring low sums, "but with depositing considerable sums into those accounts, sometimes in millions of shekels," Sagi said. "In some cases we're dealing with orderly, regular monthly deposits."
After compiling the documents earlier this year the fraud unit accelerated the investigation against Lieberman.
In January fraud unit detectives questioned Lieberman's daughter, Michal, on suspicion of being a conduit for funnelling money into his accounts through the company M.L.1, which she owned.
Lieberman's lawyer, Yoav Many, who also serves as the party's legal adviser, and five other confidants were also detained in the current bribery investigation.
Many is suspected of setting up a number of straw companies and opening bank accounts intended for laundering large sums of money.
One of the other detainees, Sharon Shalom, was Lieberman's personal aide when the latter served as national infrastructure minister. Shalom has been serving as CEO of M.L.1. He allegedly managed several straw companies through which funds were funnelled into Lieberman's accounts. "This investigation has been going on for 13 years. In today's investigation Lieberman cooperated and answered investigators' questions," Lieberman's spokeswoman Irena Etinger said.
She said he has long wanted to end the 13-year-long investigation of him, and he has even appealed to the High Court of Justice in an effort to do so.
A spokesperson from the foreign minister's office said that Lieberman "is interested in ending this affair that has continued for 13 years, and hopes that the investigation will be concluded soon and the truth will come out. The foreign minister cooperated with the investigators and answered their questions, and even enjoyed drinking coffee with them."