Comptroller: Likud's Oren Hazan Could Face Jail Time for False Deposition

Ministers Bennett and Gamliel fined, other cabinet members and lawmakers criticized by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira for violating election laws.

Olivier Fitoussi

Likud Knesset member Oren Hazan (Likud) knowingly lied in a deposition to the State Comptroller, according to a comptroller's report issued on Wednesday.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira noted that Hazan's action was a criminal act, making him liable for a possible three-year prison term.

Shapira's findings have been transferred to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who may decide to order an investigation into the issue.

Hazan was suspended from participating in Knesset activity for a month on Wednesday, following a spate of complaints against him for mocking MK Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid) in the plenum last week.

The comptroller's report, which focused on the campaigning of candidates in the run-up to the Knesset elections earlier this year, revealed violations of the electoral law by a number of ministers and Knesset members.

In his signed and validated deposition to the comptroller, Hazan stated that he had not received donations and had not incurred expenses during the pre-election Likud primary campaign, other than the 7,000 shekels he paid to join the Likud.

However, an investigation by the comptroller revealed that Hazan had invested heavily in campaigning, including for posters, stickers, T-shirts, postcards and business cards.

"The candidate did not report those expenses to my office, in violation of the law, and ran a campaign assisted by an apparatus for self-promotion, without reporting the associated expenses," the comptroller wrote in his report.

"In the absence of such reporting, it was not possible to vet the candidate's accounts, calculate his income and expenditure or assess the legality of the donations he received or their sources."

When asked by the comptroller to explain his inadequate reporting, Hazan said that he was unaware of his obligation to report on income and expenses paid on his behalf by others. The sums in question, he added, were paid by his family without his knowledge.

The comptroller rejected Hazan's arguments. In addition to determining that Hazan's behavior was criminal, Shapira fined the MK 5,000 shekels, in lieu of being able to check his expenses account for the primary.

Comptroller fines ministers Bennett and Gamliel 

Also fined by the comptroller were Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi,) Senior Citizen Affairs Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud,) Deputy Minister Jackie Levy (Likud,) Knesset Finance Committee Chairman Nissan Slomianksy (Habayit Hayehudi) and Knesset members Erel Margalit and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (both Zionist Union.)

Bennett was fined 30,000 shekels for exceeding the spending limit defined by law, for the second time in two election campaigns, as well as for accepting higher-than-legal donations.

"The candidate did not manage his finances in accordance with the requirements of the law and the instructions of the state comptroller," Shapira wrote.

"He did not submit supporting documents for services that he received during the election campaign. It is therefore impossible to say that the figure he submitted reflects the appropriate remuneration for those services or whether they were connected to the election campaign."

In another affair, the comptroller sufficed with a warning to Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud,) who received goods and services during the campaign without being able to state their volume or value.

Regev maintained that the goods in question were paid for directly by her sponsors and she was unaware of their quantity. The comptroller was unable to assess whether they were within legal limits from the documentation supplied by Regev.

He ruled that such donations would not be acceptable in the future, unless they were supplied voluntarily by a person operating in his own field.

Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz (Likud) is also under fire for transporting Israel Aircraft Industries workers to the polling station on the day of the Likud primary. Katz denied the charge and the comptroller did not hold him responsible in his report,

Katz is a former chairman of the IAI workers' committee, with a long history of mobilizing IAI workers on behalf of the Likud.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel on Wednesday called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open a criminal investigation against Oren Hazan in the wake of the State Comptroller's report.

The penal code states that "the intentional submission of an untrue deposition shall be liable for three years in prison," the movement said in a statement.

Hazan's suspension from Knesset activity for a month was imposed on Wednesday by the Knesset Ethics Committee. He will be unable to participate in plenary and committee sessions, though he will be able to vote. The committee does not have the authority to prevent a member from voting.

The suspension follows an incident last week when Hazan made fun of Yesh Atid Knesset member Karin Alharrar, who uses a wheelchair because she has muscular dystrophy.

During a Knesset vote the previous week, Alharrar asked fellow Knesset Member Essawi Freij to help her cast a vote on the Knesset’s electronic voting system. When Freij cast her vote, Hazan accused Alharrar of voting twice.

On Tuesday last week, as Alharrar was voting on a bill to postpone the draft for ultra-Orthodox men, Hazan called out, “Do you need Essawi to help you?”