Former Israeli Officials Charged for Bribery, Fraud, Tax Offenses

Indictment filed against former Deputy Minister Faina Kirshenbaum and 10 defendants associated with Defense Minister Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Faina Kirshenbaum, a member of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and deputy director of the Interior Ministry in Israel, in Tel Aviv in 2013.
Moti Milrod

Prosecutors filed an indictment at the Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday against former Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum as part of a case involving 10 defendants associated with her Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Kirshenbaum, who served as secretary general of the party, was charged with bribery, fraud, money laundering and tax offenses. 

The corruption investigation of members of Yisrael Beiteinu is one of the largest of its kind ever launched in the country and involving 110 government ministries, local authorities, public institutions and nonprofit organizations.

Allegations include claims that certain entities seeking funding from the government were required to give kickbacks to officials affiliated with Yisrael Beiteinu, and that Kirshenbaum was closely involved in the distribution of the funds and received personal benefits in return.

Among others charged are the director of the Yisrael Beiteinu party headquarters, David Godovsky, and former Agriculture Ministry director general Rami Cohen. A separate indictment is expected to be filed against another Yisrael Beiteinu figure, former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, at a later date, on charges of bribery and fraud, possession of a dangerous drug and obstruction of justice. 

Dery questioned again

For the fourth time, Israel Police anti-corruption investigators on Tuesday interrogated Interior Minister Arye Dery, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, in connection with suspicions that funds donated to an education nonprofit headed by Dery’s wife, Yaffa, were misappropriated for use by the Dery family. Yaffa Dery was also questioned by police on Tuesday.

The current case against Dery – who, following a prior stint as interior minister, served a 22-month prison term on corruption offenses – was launched due to suspicions of money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, as well as possible theft, false record-keeping and tax offenses. The focus of the investigation concerns whether funds contributed to the nonprofit, Mifalot Simha, were diverted in recent years to purchase real estate for the family. 

On Tuesday morning, the interior minister tweeted that he and his wife would provide answers to all of the investigators’ questions. “We have no doubt that everything will be fine and will end well, with the Lord’s help,” he added.

The anti-corruption team is attempting to determine the extent to which the interior minister has been involved in Mifalot Simha and the decision making process at the organization, and whether he may have helped businessmen who contributed to the nonprofit to receive illicit benefits.

In June, Arye Dery was questioned twice within one week – once for seven hours along with his wife, and then again for five hours. This followed an 11-hour session in May.

In addition to Dery and his wife, 14 other suspects have been questioned at this point in the case, including Jerusalem city councilman Moshe Leon; the director general of the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, Ariel Mishal; and the controlling shareholder of Channel 20 television, Michael Mirilashvili and his son Yitzhak.

Michael Mirilashvili, a Israeli-Georgian billionaire and philanthropist, reportedly said under questioning that his charitable activities involved donations to a large number of nonprofit groups in Israel and abroad, and that from the moment that he made his contribution, he had no knowledge of what was done with the money. 

Although they were released without restrictions last week after questioning, other suspects in the case in addition to Dery and his wife are also expected to be interrogated by the police this week.