Israel Police Chief: Solid Evidence Against Many Yisrael Beiteinu Graft Suspects

Yohanan Danino denies that the investigation was timed with election campaign in mind

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Faina Kirshenbaum. Subject of a police probe into bribe-taking and corruption.
Faina Kirshenbaum. Subject of a police probe into bribe-taking and corruption.

Enough evidence apparently exists to file charges against at least some of the people being investigated in the corruption probe involving officials of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, among others, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said Wednesday night.

“I leave the decision on indictments to the prosecution, but there will be several cases that will have a solid evidentiary basis,” Danino told Army Radio.

He stressed that the investigation had begun long before it was known there would be a Knesset election at this time.

“The investigation began over a year ago, a year and three months, to be exact,” he said. “The plan to move to the open part [of the investigation] was made before they decided there would be an election. Let me remind you that no one was expecting this election.”

Danino said he had been monitoring the investigation from the beginning, adding, “there were no surprises here. We knew from the start that the investigation would be very broad and some of the suspicions very serious.”

With regard to police objectivity and independence in managing the investigation, Danino said, “The [Israel] police is one of the most independent police forces in existence today. Our culture is to be very independent.”

Some 30 senior figures, including Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum and former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, ministry directors-general, organization directors and others, have been arrested and questioned in connection with the investigation.

The suspicions against them include improperly diverting funds to various nonprofit associations and other bodies, laundering money through front organizations, bribery, fraud and breach of trust, falsifying corporate documents, promoting the interests of cronies and appointing associates to government positions. Police say the financial scope of the fraud totaled millions of shekels.

The police have raided the homes and offices of the suspects and confiscated documents and computers.

Kirshenbaum, the main suspect in the case, has been ordered by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to stay away from her office until the investigation clarifies her position.

In another development, MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) has asked the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, to consider whether the director-general of the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division, Yaron Ben Ezra, should be dropped as the Yisrael Beiteinu representative on the elections committee.

Last week police raided the settlement division’s offices as part of the corruption investigation, but Ben Ezra is not a suspect and it isn’t clear what bearing the documents confiscated from the division have on the case.

Even if there is no legal problem with Ben Ezra’s membership on the elections committee, Michaeli said, the impression created could be problematic. Joubran has asked Weinstein for his opinion on the issue.

Ben Ezra has protested Michaeli’s intervention. “My appointment to the elections committee is legal, proper and straightforward,” he said. “I am an employee of a national institution and not a state employee. I would expect an MK to be able to tell the difference.

“I assume that the approaching primaries for MK Michaeli’s party are the reason for her reckless comments, even though it should be noted that I am not, nor have I ever been, a suspect in this or any other case. I will give my full and detailed response to the honorable Justice Joubran, as he has directed.”

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