Everything You Need to Know: Lieberman Graft Case 101

Attorney General Weinstein is expected to close case on all major allegations against the foreign minister, including fraud, aggravated fraud, money laundering and witness tampering, and indict him only on the more minor offense of breach of trust. A guide to the Lieberman file.

Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
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Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman

What is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman suspected of?

The main case: According to allegations, between 2001-2008 a period in which Lieberman served as a Knesset member and minister, foreign businessmen, among them Martin Schlaff, Mikhail Chernoy and Daniel Gittenstein, transferred hundreds of millions dollars to companies owned by Lieberman in Israel, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands. Upon returning to politics after a hiatus of two years (2004-2006), Lieberman declared that he had sold his interests in these companies and was no longer connected to them. However, according to the prosecution's investigation, he continued to receive large sums of money, even after resuming public life.

The prosecution thus charged him with money-laundering, fraud and breach of trust. He was not charged with receiving a bribe, despite being accused of this during the police investigation.

Accompanying crimes: Alongside these allegations, the prosecution has accused Lieberman of two additional crimes associated with the main case. These are suborning a witness - for speaking to one of those involved in the alleged activities about the investigation - and breach of trust for trying to promote Israel's ambassador to Belarus Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, after the latter handed over confidential information about a judicial inquiry by the police regarding his affairs in Belarus. Lieberman was suspected of disruption of proceedings. It appears the prosecution will only file an indictment in this case against the ambassador.

Those close to Lieberman claim that he was investigated in 2000, while theprosecution claims the investigation began in 2006. Who is right?

In February 2000, an investigation was initiated against Lieberman on suspicion he had accepted bribes from businessman David Appel, as well as campaign contributions deemed illegal under the Parties Funding Law. The case was passed from the police to the prosecution in 2005. In early 2006, the authorities received new information about suspicious money transfers to Lieberman's bank accounts, and by April 2006 the attorney general ordered an investigation into those transactions as well. The case involving Appel and the campaign contributions was closed in August 2008 for lack of evidence, but the money transfers continued to be investigated until 2009. During this period, Lieberman also conducted a legal proceeding against the police request to look through 1,200 documents found in the office of his attorney, Yoav Meni, claiming lawyer-client privilege. In August 2008, the High Court rejected his appeal and instructed to hand the documents over to the police.

When was the current case handed over to the prosecution?

In August 2009, the police submitted its file to the prosecution with a recommendation that it indict on all the suspicions, including bribery. The police later asked to augment their investigation and also conducted investigations abroad. In early 2010, then-Attorney General Menahem Mazuz retired from his post without deciding on whether to indict Lieberman, leaving that decision to his successor, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. In April 2011, Weinstein announced he was considering indicting Lieberman for the suspicions, pending the hearing. In January and februrary 2012, hearings were held with Lieberman's attorneys, Yaron Kostlitz, Oded Gazit, Giora Aderet and Nati Simhchoni. In May 2012, Lieberman's lawyers submitted additional arguments in writing. Since then Weinstein's office has been sitting on the files.

So what are the deliberations about?

The prosecution was not sure whether the evidence collected is sufficient to bring a conviction in court. Some of the witnesses who incriminated Lieberman, tying him to straw companies, have changed their versions and now refuse to come to Israel and testify against him in court. One witness committed suicide, another suffered a stroke, while the key prosecution witness changed her incriminating version, and raising doubt over a possible conviction. The prosecution found it difficult to obtain the cooperation of foreign judiciary authorities in order to compel witness to testify, and also feared that even if some were to testify, their credibility would be deemed low due to the time passed since the events.

What is Weinstein expected to announce?

Weinstein is expected to announce his decision in the entire case, thereby concluding a 12-year investigation. It appears likely that Weinstein will announce his decision not to indict Lieberman on the straw companies affairs, but only on the breach of trust in the ambassador affair. Weinstein will include his explanations for closing the case in the decision and apparently enumerate the State Attorney Moshe Lador's position, who favored filing an indictment on the main case, but accepted his position. He will also eventually be expected to declare his decision regarding Lieberman's continued service as a minister and member of Knesset

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.Credit: Emil Salman

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