Israeli Interior Minister Questioned Again on Graft Suspicions

The police suspect that money donated to a nonprofit group may have helped Arye Dery’s family buy real estate

Shas party chairman and Interior Minister Arye Dery at the Negev Conference in Yeruham on April 12, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The police on Thursday once again questioned Interior Minister Arye Dery about corruption suspicions including money laundering, fraud, breach of trust and tax violations.

Dery was last by questioned by the police in September.

At issue are suspicions that money donated to a nonprofit group headed by Dery’s wife Yaffa was used by the family to buy real estate, among other things. The police are trying to learn the extent of Dery’s involvement in the suspected crimes, and whether he helped businessmen who may have donated to the venture.

Other suspects in the case include Moshe Leon, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, Ariel Mishal, the director general of the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, and Mikhael Mirilashvili, the controlling shareholder of Channel 20, as well as his son Yitzhak.

Two weeks ago Haaretz reported that the police were investigating suspicions of bribery between Dery and businessman Ilan Sharabi. Dery allegedly received 200,000 shekels ($58,000) from Sharabi in 2012 without reporting it, and later intervened on the businessman’s behalf in a legal dispute while serving as interior minister.

According to the sources, the money, which was deposited in Dery’s personal bank account, was received before Dery had returned to the Knesset and the helm of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, but after he had announced his intention to return to politics.

In early 2016, Dery became interior minister. Shortly afterward, on February 23, he met with Sharabi at his government office in Jerusalem, the sources say. Sharabi says the money he gave Dery was a loan and it was repaid in full. But Dery told the police that he had forgotten he ever received the money.

In 1999, Dery received a three-year prison sentence after a graft conviction.