Barak’s Wife Faces Indictment for Hiring Illegal Worker

Attorney General rebuffed Nili Priel's request to pay a fine for the violation while immigration authorities searched for her former housekeeper.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is expected to order in the coming days the indictment of the spouse of Defense Minister Ehud Barak for employing a foreign worker illegally.

Last month Weinstein rejected a request by Nili Priel to be allowed to pay a fine for the violation of employing a Filipina housekeeper. Weinstein believes that in view of the fact that the work permit for Virginia, the foreign worker, which was issued for caregiving, expired several years earlier, and she was employed at the Barak household in Tel Aviv for a relatively long period of time as a housekeeper, Priel must be tried on criminal charges.

barak - Channel 10 - November 1 2010
Channel 10

Meanwhile, Virginia was found in south Tel Aviv yesterday and was held for questioning at a Holon office of the Immigration and Population Authority.

Virginia’s testimony will allow the immigration authorities to build an indictment against Priel. Otherwise, without her testimony or that of the Shin Bet guards who identified the Filipina as the housekeeper in the Barak household, it will not be possible to bring charges against Priel for illegally employing a foreign worker.

The Filipina, who is also known as Diana, was taken yesterday to the offices of the unit which specializes in law enforcement in cases involving the employment of foreign workers. After she is questioned, her case will be further evaluated and a decision will be made on her status in the country.

Sources in the immigration authority said yesterday that they have no intention to jail Virginia since she has family in Israel. They added that the woman will be questioned only about her employment in the household of Barak and Priel and not about other places of work where she worked illegally.

Last week the Oz unit of the immigration authorities was ordered to locate her, and learned the she was in south Tel Aviv.

“The woman was very surprised that we arrived and was mostly worried about her son who was with her,” said an officer in the unit who participated in the operation. “She shook our hands and told us that she would accompany us. She was very surprised but cooperated fully,” the officer said. “When we reached the office [in Holon] we gave her food and drink and talked a little and she even laughed but she was feeling stressed by the investigation and the possibility that she may be expelled from Israel,” the officer added.

“We hope that her questioning will contribute to the case against Ms. Priel,” a source at the Immigration and Population Authority told Haaretz.

Carmela Menashe, a reporter for Israel Radio who had broken the story in December last year, succeeded in conversing with Virginia − though authorities were unable to locate her − and subsequently, Attorney General Weinstein announced that if the authorities receive new information that will enable them to find Virginia, the case would be evaluated.

Priel then wrote to Weinstein and commented on the case. “During my initial questioning many months ago, I confirmed that I had employed a worker illegally,” she wrote. “I expressed my regret and I reiterate my willingness to pay the fine which the state sets in such cases. I believe that thus it will be possible to bring the matter to a close.”

Virginia worked for Priel for eight months, three times a week, in cleaning and cooking. She had come to Israel to work as a caregiver, and began working for Priel when her work visa expired. The law does not permit employing a foreign worker under terms different from those established by their original visa.