Israeli Minister Indicted for Tax Evasion Pending a Hearing, Attorney General Says

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Interior Minister Arye Dery in Jerusalem, January 2020.
Interior Minister Arye Dery in Jerusalem, January 2020. Credit: Amit Shabi
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced on Friday he has decided to indict Interior Minister Arye Dery for tax evasion pending a hearing, while clearing the minister of corruption charges citing a lack of evidence.

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Dery served 22 months in prison after being convicted of bribery and fraud in 2000, and regained leadership of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party a decade after his release.

Dery decried the charges as false, releasing a statement on Twitter: "After five years of tough investigations, I thank God for the decision to clear all the slanderous charges against me, and I am convinced that this hearing will lead to the cancellation of the tax case, after all the facts are received by the attorney general."

Dery's lawyer, Navot Tel-Zur said in a statement that Mendelblit's decision comes after "five years of torturous investigations," and expressed hope that the "appropriate answers" given in the hearing will make the attorney general reconsider the draft indictment.

The draft indictment outlines three dealings. The first is a real estate deal made in 2013 between Dery and his brother, where the minister allegedly falsely registered an apartment building under construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Sha'ul as a vacant plot of land and backdated the contract.

In the two other cases, Dery is said to have transferred payments he received to his brother and to a non-governmental organization he was associated with, allegedly in order to avoid paying taxes for them.

Mendelblit decided there was not enough evidence to indict Dery on other offenses, including corruption, against the opinion of some officials in his office and with the police.

In 2018, the police recommended charging Dery with a range of tax-related offenses, as well as fraud, breach of trust, obstruction of justice, perjury and money laundering of millions of shekels. In 2019, the State Prosecutor's Office recommended that Mendelblit serve an indictment against him.

Upon releasing the recommendations, the police said most of his offenses were carried out before he returned to politics, but some of the offenses were recorded after Dery was re-appointed interior minister in 2015.

He also served as interior minister between 1988 and 1993, under prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yizhak Rabin.

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