Police questioned Interior Minister Arye Dery and his wife Yaffa Dery for seven hours on Monday as part of a corruption investigation.
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Dery is suspected of offenses including fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. Yaffa Dery is suspected only of falsifying corporate documents and tax offenses.
Police believe the Derys used contributions to an education charity headed by Yaffa Dery to buy property, among other things. Investigators seek to understand how involved Dery was in the nonprofit organization as well as whether he used his various government positions to provide favors to businessmen who donated to it.
An undercover probe by the police and the Israel Tax Authority found that some donation checks made out to the organization were cashed by members of the Dery family at money changers.
In this way, police suspect, the family was able to siphon off money for personal use. However, it’s also possible that all the cash was simply returned to the organization.
Next week, police plan to question various other people involved in the case, including some of the organization’s contributors. Inter alia, they will try to determine how the organization recruited its donors and how involved the Derys were in its fund-raising efforts.
So far, police have questioned 14 other suspects in addition to Dery and his wife. They include Jerusalem city councilman Moshe Leon; Ariel Mishal, director general of the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry; Michael Mirilashvili, owner of the television station Channel 20; and Mirilashvili’s son Yitzhak. Some of them will be questioned again next week
Police are also looking into grants that the Economy Ministry gave to the organization during Dery’s tenure as its minister. The ministry said these grants were completely legitimate, and that it funds many organizations engaged in educating ultra-Orthodox women.
Last week, police questioned Dery and his wife for 11 hours. Dery said after that interrogation that he had cooperated fully and answered all the police’s questions.