Israel Lands Authority Chairman Bentzi Lieberman Named as Suspect in Corruption Probe

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Bentzi Lieberman, head of Israel Lands Admnistration, in June 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Israel Lands Authority (ILA) Chairman Bentzi Lieberman was named on Saturday as the senior official involved in the alleged graft scandal at the organization. The other senior official detained alongside Lieberman last Thursday is former National Religious Party MK Nahum Langenthal.

According to a source close to the investigation, Lieberman is suspected of helping raise the value of land for projects to be built by the KarDan construction company, allowing the company to increase its income by millions of shekels. Lieberman last week announced that he would be resigning as ILA chairman.

Although suspicions pertain currently only to the KarDan construction company, it appears the probe will extend to other entities and affairs connected to the ILA. The police took computers and documents from the ILA offices last week.

Langenthal, today an executive at KarDan, is suspected of exploiting his political connections to promote corporate and personal issues. The former MK is also suspected of using those connections to gain ownership of apartments in the center of the country that were built with money from nonprofit organizations.

The police say bribery was not involved in the case, which is distinct from the probe into corruption by Yisrael Beiteinu officials.

Nahum Langenthal.Credit: David Bachar

On Thursday, Lieberman and Langenthal were questioned under caution for more than 10 hours, on suspicion of committing fraud and breach of trust. The police said they presented the pair with evidence collected over six months during the undercover phase of the investigation.

The two men were released to house arrest for five days, and are banned from their offices for 15 days.

The investigation began following a complaint. The head of the police’s Investigations and Intelligence Division, Meni Yitzhaki, ordered that it be pursued by Lahav 433 (the fraud and anti-corruption unit). It is suspected that, in several instances, Lieberman violated conflict of interest arrangements that were signed upon his appointment to his position in the ILA. He also allegedly acted in cases involving a conflict of interest without declaring that fact, as required.

The investigation was coordinated from the start with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, and accompanied by the economic crimes division of the State Prosecutor’s Office.

Lieberman, who was appointed ILA chairman in September 2011, began his public service career as the deputy mayor of Hadera. He founded the settlement of Peduel in the northern West Bank and was head of the Yesha Council of settlers from 2002-2006.

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