Former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov will serve 15 months in prison for breach of trust as part of a plea bargain approved on Tuesday by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court. Misezhnikov, a former Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset member, admitted to breach of trust while serving as tourism minister in allocating a budget of 1 million shekels ($283,000) to a university student festival held in Eilat in 2010. Misezhikov admitted he had asked the organizers of the festival to employ Julia Roth, with whom the minister had a relationship that the prosecution described as “close and concealed.”
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“I am deeply regretful and take full responsibility for the offense that I have committed,” Misezhnikov told Magistrate’s Court Judge Tzahi Ouziel. He attributed his error in judgment to “over-exuberance” due to his lack of experience as a newly installed tourism minister. “I am far from being a corrupt man,” he said. In addition to the prison sentence, he was sentenced to six months’ probation and fined 70,000 shekels ($19,800).
Charges of drug possession against Misezhnikov were dropped as part of the plea agreement. The initial indictment had alleged that on a number of occasions, while on official government business in Israel and overseas, Misezhnikov sent one of his advisers to buy cocaine for him. He was also originally charged with using this cocaine at various events. Misezhnikov denied the drugs charges, saying they were invented by the adviser who turned state’s evidence against him. Also dropped, due to evidentiary problems, were allegations that Misezhnikov had accepted bribes.
Ouziel said: “There is no doubt that the offense that the defendant was convicted of is a serious offense that requires an appropriate punishment.” But he said he also considered Misezhnikov’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions.