Attorney General to Leave Decision on Lieberman Indictment to Successor

Lieberman is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.

Outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz apparently will leave the decision on whether to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to his successor, Yehuda Weinstein. This means that no decision is likely to be made for months, as Weinstein will first have to study the voluminous material.

Until recently, the prevailing opinion in the legal establishment was that Mazuz intended to decide on the Lieberman case before leaving office. But his term concludes at the end of this month, and so far, the state prosecution's economic division has yet to complete its review of the case. That review is the basis on which the attorney general and state prosecutor will make their decision.

But even if Mazuz were to make a decision on the case, it would be tentative rather than final, since Lieberman is entitled to a hearing before the final decision is made. Any hearing would probably not take place until months after the initial decision.

Last month, Mazuz informed the High Court of Justice that he and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador had begun discussing the Lieberman case, based on an interim report submitted by the economic division. That report summarized the main evidence in the case and offered legal opinions on some of the issues at stake. Mazuz's statement was submitted in response to a petition by Lieberman demanding that the attorney general either indict him or close the case, which has dragged on for more than a decade.

However, due to the complexity of the case, the enormous amount of evidentiary material and the thorny legal issues it presents - plus the fact that prosecutors recently asked the police to do some additional investigating - it seems the chances of the economics division finishing its review in time for Mazuz to make a decision are slim.

Aside from this objective difficulty, Mazuz is also thought to be reluctant to make a decision in the final days of his term lest it be viewed as persecution of Lieberman, or as an attempt to "lock in" his successor.

Lieberman is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering. Police believe that he received more than NIS 10 million in bribes from businessmen including Martin Schlaff and Michael Chernoy. The money was allegedly laundered via a series of shell companies and fictitious bank accounts overseas.

Since police carried out the investigation in close coordination with Mazuz, they considered him likely to adopt their conclusions.

In contrast, it is not yet clear whether Weinstein, who until now was a private-sector defense attorney, will be able to decide on the case at all, given that he recently defended Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska against a libel suit filed by Chernoy. If Weinstein recuses himself, the decision would be made by Lador.

Attorney Yaron Kosteliz, who represents Lieberman, said he had no idea whether Mazuz would make a decision.