Former Tourism Minister Held in Custody for 9 More Days

Stas Misezhnikov is one of more than two dozen senior figures in public service to be detained over massive bribery and money-laundering scandal.

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov
Tourism Minister Stas MisezhnikovCredit: Eyal Toueg
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Stas Misezhnikov, a former Yisrael Beiteinu cabinet member who is one of more than two dozen senior figures in public service who have been detained for questioning over a massive bribery and money-laundering scandal, will have to stay in jail for nine more days, the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court ruled Wednesday.

The court said Wednesday there was a "reasonable suspicion" that Misezhnikov was guilty of bribery and obstructing a police investigation while serving as tourism minister between 2009 and 2013. Police said he is also suspected of intervening to have his friends win public tenders worth millions of shekels.

Another Yisrael Beiteinu figure – Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum, who is considered the prime suspect – was questioned Wednesday under caution. The chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been repeatedly investigated over corruption charges but was acquitted of fraud in one of the most recent cases last year.

Coming just as campaign season is getting into gear, the accusations could well have an effect on Yisrael Beiteinu's chances in the next election.

Police say the approximately 30 suspects illegally allocated funds to non-sanctioned organizations and laundered money through a shell company. They are also accused of granting personal favors and pushing for their associates' promotions in addition to engaging in bribery as middlemen for Kirshenbaum.

Other suspects include the Yisrael Beiteinu chief of staff, the director of a government ministry and sports officials.

David Godovsky, the Yisrael Beiteinu chief of staff, had his remand extended by nine days on Wednesday. The director general of the government ministry, whose identity is under gag order, had his remand extended by seven days.

His lawyer, Avi Himi, said the ministry director "denies the existence of any offense."

"Cases of this type pop up like mushrooms after the rain, and in this case there won't be even a single mushroom left at the end," Himi said.

Other suspects include Amnon Lieberman, a media adviser to the Agriculture Ministry director, and Avner Koppel, a former commissioner of the Israel Baketball League; both have been ordered to serve 10 days in house arrest. Doron Simhi, president of the Israel Handball Association, was ordered to serve seven days of house arrest.

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