Tzachi Hanegbi to Be Indicted Over Political Appointments

Yuval Yoaz
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Yuval Yoaz

The State Prosecutor's Office will indict MK Tzachi Hanegbi in a month over political appointments he made while environment minister, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided yesterday.

Hanegbi agreed to waive his parliamentary immunity, but announced that he does not intend to resign his post as chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Hanegbi will be charged with fraud and breach of trust, election bribery, attempting to influence voters, false testimony and perjury.

"The indictment ignores the fact that the professional echelon alone appointed people to various ministry posts," lawyers for Hanegbi stated.

As first reported in Haaretz three weeks ago, Mazuz made a final decision to indict Hanegbi despite the hearing held for his lawyers, Yaakov Weinroth and Gershon Gontovnik, six weeks ago.

"The claims Hanegbi raised at the hearing were scrupulously examined," the Justice Ministry said yesterday, "but ultimately it was decided to keep the decision to indict."

Mazuz also decided in principle to indict the director general of the ministry under Hanegbi, Shmuel Hershkovitz, but that decision is still pending a hearing next month at the Jerusalem Prosecutor's Office.

According to the indictment, "during his tenure at the Environment Ministry, the accused acted in a premeditated and systematic manner, himself and through others headed by Hershkovitz, to secure the appointment of [Likud] Central Committee members, their sons, daughters, friends and so on, to as many jobs and positions in the ministry as possible, while violating the general public's chance to compete for these jobs and positions, and sometimes without regard for their qualifications and suitability for the post. This activity took place while exploiting public resources for political and personal interests, which violated the equality principle, tarnished the civil service with a political element, damaged the quality of workers in the civil service and undermined the standards of ethical propriety in the civil service."

The criminal investigation began in August 2004 after the state comptroller, Eliezer Goldberg, released a grave report on political appointments at the Environment Ministry between 2001 and 2003, in the 20 months Hanegbi served as minister. Goldberg stated that Hanegbi had improperly appointed dozens of Likud Central Committee members and their relatives to various positions in the ministry. Some of the jobs were fictitious.

Additionally, political associates of Hanegbi's won ministry tenders for purchasing services, which favored them because of their political affiliation and violated government tender regulations.

Goldberg's investigation was prompted by an internal Likud pamphlet issued before the 2003 elections, which crowned Hanegbi "The Appointments Champion" and recounted how he took care to appoint "to all the unmanned posts in the Environment Ministry 80 of our members."

Hanegbi testified at the time before the chair of the Central Elections Committee, Justice Mishael Cheshin, claiming that he had nothing to do with the pamphlet's publication. A police investigation revealed that Hanegbi was allegedly behind the publication, copies of which were even found on his computer, and therefore it was decided to charge him with the serious offense of giving false testimony and perjury.

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