Former lawmaker Haneen Zoabi and the Arab party Balad will be indicted pending a hearing for forgery and fraud relating to their reports on campaign funding filed to the state comptroller, the attorney general and state prosecutor announced Thursday.
Balad is suspected of having received from abroad some three million shekels ($862,650) and using the funds while pretending that the money had come in as donations. The party rejected the accusations, claiming they were part of "political persecution."
Among those facing an indictment subject to a hearing are former Balad central committee members and the party’s former secretary general.
Zoabi and some 35 other party officials allegedly provided the state comptroller with false reports on the sources of party funds during two election campaigns in 2013, one for the Knesset and the other for municipal elections.
The officials allegedly transferred millions of shekels to the party’s coffers and reported them as coming from hundreds of individual local donors, while in fact the funds came from a variety of Israeli and foreign sources – many of whom are forbidden to provide campaign contributions.
According to the state prosecutor's statement, the investigation "revealed broad and systematic fraud both in terms of its scope and the number of people involved, as well as the complexity and sophistications of the operation aimed at introducing unlawful funds into the political system."
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Zoabi and the others are suspected of aggravated fraud, attempted fraud, money laundering, aggravated forgery, using a forged document and forging corporate records.
Party officials deposited around 2.4 million shekels ($690,000) in the party bank account before the 2013 general election. In a financial report provided to the state comptroller in February 2016, the funds were described as donations. The report was accompanied by 1,300 receipts, found by police investigation to be forged, and a list of donors, also found to be forged, according to the prosecution.
Ahead of the 2013 municipal elections, a representative of the party deposited 713,000 shekels ($205,000) in the party bank account. In April 2014, the party provided a financial report citing the funds as donations. According to the state prosecutor, the list of donors and 350 accompanying receipts were found to be forged. The receipts were filed between July and August 2014 by senior officials and party activists.
Balad denied allegations against Zoabi and claimed the prosecutor timed its indictment in order to hurt Balad and Arab voters ahead of the September 17 election. "The case is administrative and should remain under the authority of the state comptroller, as has been the case with other political parties. Making the matter into a criminal case is a vindictive action constituting political persecution," Balad said.
Balad is one of the four Arab-majority parties that make up the Joint List.