AG Rejects Offer by Barak's Wife Over Illegal Housekeeper

Attorney General: Nili Priel's willingness to pay a fine is insufficient if there is sufficient cause for an indictment.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein rejected yesterday the offer by Nili Priel, wife of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to pay a fine for illegally employing a migrant worker in her home in Tel Aviv. Priel may be summoned to another interrogation in the affair.

Last December, Israel Army Radio revealed that Priel was employing a migrant worker without a license; the woman was doing chores twice a week and helping out when the couple held parties. The worker had previously been employed as a caretaker, but when her employment license expired, she began cleaning homes.

barak - David Bachar - October 22 2010
David Bachar

Raz Nezri, a senior assistant to Weinstein, wrote to Priel that there was sufficient cause for an indictment rather than a fine because the worker only had a permit for caretaking and had been Priel's housekeeper for a significant period of time.

Nezri, however, noted that even if Priel only deserved an administrative fine, the evidence necessary to levy it was still missing. He said that according to an instruction by a previous attorney general, fines could not be levied without "facts and evidence that may have served as a basis for pressing charges."

According to the letter to Priel, "Your agreement to pay an administrative fine cannot therefore bring the matter to a close." But Priel was told that the immigration authorities would consider whether any new information could help locate the migrant worker, and would consider whether Priel should be summoned for another round of questioning.

Sources close to the Barak family complained yesterday that cases of other prominent figures caught illegally employing migrant workers were settled with mere fines or without punishment, while the authorities sought to press criminal charges against Priel.

They also denied that the worker managed the household, insisting that she only helped the family host guests from time to time. They said the seven or eight months the woman worked at the Barak home could hardly be considered "a significant period of time."