Police: Indict Lieberman on Multiple Graft Charges

Police recommend FM be charged with obstruction of justice, fraud, bribery and money laundering.

Police on Sunday recommended that the state prosecution to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering, witness harassment and obstruction of justice.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz must approve the recommendation before Lieberman is formally charged. It could be weeks or months before a decision is made.

The combined maximum sentence for those crimes would be 31 years in prison, a police officer said.

A police statement said the investigation began in 2006 and covered events going back to 2000.

Lieberman released a statement in response to the police announcement, saying there were no grounds for the indictment and that he was the victim of persecution.

"For 13 years the police have conducted a campaign of persecution against me," the foreign minister said. "As much as my political strength and the strength of Yisrael Beiteinu rise, the campaign of persecution also intensifies."

He said police had no real reason for launching an investigation against him, and that if the suspicions had been proven true, the investigation would not have lasted for over a decade.

"Only an appeal to the High Court, which demanded a halt to the judicial torture of me and my family, obliged the police to conclude the investigation," he said.

A police source has said the investigation is "practically over," and the body of evidence is sufficient to support an indictment on the charges.

Last month, Mazuz met with police investigations division head Yoav Sigalovich, national fraud squad head Shlomo Ayalon and detectives involved in the investigation.

The indictment taking shape suggests Lieberman managed a well-oiled business machine through front men even after taking public office, and made millions of dollars.

Lieberman and his associates are suspected of establishing several companies, some of them shell companies, in order to launder millions of shekels and funnel them into his own pockets. Police have investigated whether Lieberman continued running these alleged operations even after becoming a public official.

In addition, police believe Lieberman and his associates tried to obstruct the police investigation in at least three separate instances, by changing the names of companies he allegedly established in Cyprus after he suspected the police had identified them.

In his statement Thursday, Lieberman added: "I hope that as opposed to the police, the other law enforcement bodies will act fairly, without political considerations and without preconceptions, and will not try to forcibly justify the longest political investigation in the state's history.

"In a country governed by civil laws, a person - even if he is a minister - is innocent until proven guilty."

The last time Lieberman and his associates changed the companies' names was in 2006, at the height of the investigation, when he allegedly realized that police were shifting their focus from Austria to Cyprus.

As reported in Haaretz, Lieberman incriminated himself when police questioned him on suspicions that he took bribes. However, this is believed to be the less significant of the charges the foreign minister may face; if a plea bargain is reached, it may be dropped from the indictment.

Haaretz has learned that Lieberman earned more than NIS 2.5 million as a salaried employee of his daughter's company from 2004-2006, when he was neither a Knesset member nor a cabinet minister. According to information obtained by Haaretz, between 2004 and 2007 the company headed by Michal Lieberman, M.L. 1, received NIS 11 million from anonymous sources overseas for "business consulting."

Another Haaretz probe revealed that in 2001 an Austrian company owned by Jewish gambling tycoon Martin Schlaff transferred $650,000 to a Cypriot company, Trasimeno Trading, which police believe was controlled by Lieberman. A previous probe revealed Lieberman held several private bank accounts and accounts belonging to companies while presiding as a minister in the cabinet of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.