Israel's police today recommended indicting Interior Minister Aryeh Deri for fraud, in yet another case of corruption inside the Israeli establishment.
Deri is suspected of fraud, breach of trust, obstructing court proceedings, money laundering and tax offenses thought to amount to millions of shekels, some of which were committed during his time in the cabinet, the Times of Israel (ToI) reported.
It is believed that Deri "divert[ed] hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds to NGOs run by members of his immediate family," ToI explained. These transactions alerted the attention of the Israel Police and the Money Laundering and Terror Finance Prohibition Authority, which found alleged irregularities "in bank accounts related to Aryeh Deri and his family and pointed to significant sums of money transferred from businessmen to the Deri family".
The investigation also focused on transactions for the sale of land owned by Deri in Givat Shaul (Lifta), west of Jerusalem, and Har Shmuel (sometimes known as Har Homa), an illegal Israeli settlement south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.
Deri is also suspected of obstructing court proceedings, having spoken with one of the parties involved immediately after the interrogation despite being explicitly told not to do so. The investigation also found sufficient evidence to charge him with perjury, claiming he submitted false written declarations to the State Comptroller (which reviews government operations) about his assets and earnings, Ynet added.
The investigation file will now be transferred to Israel's State Prosecutor's Office.
Deri – who is also head of the Shas party – is no stranger to corruption, having served 22 months in prison between 2000 and 2002 after he was convicted of taking bribes worth $155,000 during his term as interior minister under Benjamin Netanyahu's government (1996-1999).
For his part Netanyahu is embroiled in three corruption cases, with further cases against his wife Sara and lawyer and cousin David Shimron. Earlier this week, Israel Police announced they are willing to submit their recommendations to the Public Prosecutor's Office regarding their investigation into Case 4000 which pertains to alleged arrangements between Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch – the head of telecoms giant Bezeq Communications and owner of news website Walla. Under this deal Netanyahu promised government concessions and services in exchange for favourable coverage on the news site, with Bezeq thought to have earned hundreds of millions of dollars during Netanyahu's term as communications minister.
The other cases, dubbed Case 1000 and Case 2000 respectively, have also seen Netanyahu accused of high-level corruption. In Case 1000, Netanyahu stands accused of accepting lavish gifts from two influential businessmen in return for favourable legislation and personal favours. In Case 2000, Netanyahu is being investigated for promising Arnon Mozes – the owner of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aronoth – that he would curtail the circulation of Israel Hayom, Mozes' main competitor publication, in return for favourable coverage of him and his policies.
In October, Netanyahu was questioned for the 12th time in relation to cases 1000 and 2000, the first time since his former confidant Nir Hefetz turned state's witness and agreed to assist the police with their investigations. It is not yet known if or when Netanyahu will be charged.