Israeli Prosecutors to Open Hearing on Indictment Against Lieberman

In two-day hearing beginning Tuesday, prosecutors will discuss whether to indict the Foreign Minister on charges of fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and witness tampering; final decision not due for months.

Top prosecutors will begin a two-day hearing Tuesday on whether to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu ) on charges of fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and witness tampering.

The hearing will be conducted by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador. Weinstein is expected to make a final decision on whether to indict Lieberman and other suspects in the case within the next few months.

Olivier Fitoussi

The allegations against Lieberman relate to the period between 2001 and 2008, during which time various businessmen are suspected of transferring millions of dollars to companies under his control. For part of this time, Lieberman was a private citizen, but for the remainder, he was a Knesset member and cabinet minister.

In 1997, after he resigned as director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Lieberman got involved in various business ventures that included the acquisition or formation of companies in Israel, Cyprus and the Virgin Islands, among other locations. The companies allegedly received huge sums from individuals with interests in Israel, including Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff, Soviet-born Israeli industrialist Michael Chernoy, Israeli diamond merchant Dan Gertler and Moldovan Jewish businessman Daniel Gittenstein. The payments continued even after Lieberman began serving as a Knesset member and cabinet minister in 2001.

Upon reentering public life in 2001, Lieberman declared that he had sold all his holdings in these companies. But police suspect that even though other individuals were registered as the owners, Lieberman remained in control of the firms.

Weinstein announced last April that he had tentatively decided to indict the foreign minister, subject to a hearing. As is customary, Lieberman won't attend this week's hearing himself; he will be represented by his lawyers. They are expected to contend that after formally divesting himself of his companies, he no longer ran them and no longer received income from them. The attorneys will deny that he attempted to hide illegal business activities while serving as an MK and cabinet minister.

One of the ventures in the prosecution's sights is Mountain View Assets, which is nominally controlled by Lieberman's former driver, Igor Schneider. The foreign minister's lawyers are expected to assert that their client has no connection to Mountain View, and may contend that Schneider is an active businessman in Germany in his own right, with a range of contacts that include some of Lieberman's acquaintances.

Lieberman's lawyers are also expected to say he had no involvement in a 2001 transaction in which about $500,000 was transferred to Mountain View Assets from MCG Holdings, a company owned by Michael Chernoy.

Regarding another company, Nativ El Hamizrach, which Lieberman set up in the late 1990s, his attorneys are expected to claim that when he reentered public life in 2001, Lieberman sold his stake in the firm and reported the transaction to the state comptroller at the time.

With regard to M.L.1, a company headed by his daughter, Michal, Lieberman's lawyers are expected to state that his employment at the company, which began in 2004, ended in 2006, and that he reported all the income he received from the company while he was a private citizen to the tax authorities.

In May 2004, Lieberman was dismissed from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet for opposing the planned disengagement from Gaza. He also resigned from the Knesset, and his party quit the government in protest. But it won 11 seats in the next election, in 2006.

Read this article in Hebrew.