Attorney General in dilemma over Liberman

The allegations against Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman have produced one of the most difficult cases that the judicial system has handled.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is caught in a deep professional dilemma whether to indict Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman. The dilemma is apparent in Weinstein's meetings with his staff on the case, and is the reason for the further delay in the final decision on whether to indict Liberman or close the case, after more than six years of investigation by the Israel Police and handling by the State Prosecutor's Office.

Information obtained by "Globes" indicates that Weinstein's doubts are due to the legal complexity of the case, and because it is a very complicated factual puzzle. However, he does not necessary face a black and white decision of either closing the case or filing an indictment, as the issue also involves which charges to indict Liberman on, should Weinstein decide to indict him.

The Liberman case is one of the most difficult and sensitive cases that the judicial system has handled in years. In addition to the legal problems that emerged in the hearing with Liberman's attorneys, and which are discussed in the correspondence between the prosecutors and Liberman's attorneys, any professional decision on the case will have immediate political repercussions, as Liberman must resign if indicted, and if he refuses, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must fire him.

If Liberman is indicted, and assuming that his trial would last a long time, he will not be allowed to serve as a cabinet minister in the next government, after elections. However, so long as he is not convicted, nothing prevents him from being included in Yisrael Beitenu's list of candidates for the next Knesset, and he can continue to serve as the party chairman and MK during his trial.

In April 2011, Weinstein decided to indict Liberman, subject to a hearing, on charges of fraud and breach of trust, aggravated fraudulent receiving, money laundering, and witness intimidation. However, Weinstein decided not to indict Liberman on charges of accepting bribes and obstruction of justice. Liberman's alleged crimes took place in 2001-08, when he was an MK and cabinet minister.

The investigation found that, after Liberman resigned as director general of the Prime Minister's Office in 1997, during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first term, Liberman initiated business activity in Israel and overseas through two companies founded in Israel and Cyprus. In addition to these companies' operations, he is suspected of having ties with Israeli and foreign businessmen, who paid large amounts of money to these and subsequent companies founded by Liberman, including money that was not derived from the companies' activity, and did reflect compensation for their activity.

Before Liberman was appointed minister, and during his subsequent public life, he allegedly conspired with Adv. Yoav Meni to formulate a plan to illegally pursue Liberman's financial activity. The two men are alleged to have systematically and deliberately concealed this activity, while methodically and continuously defrauding the public and state agencies. In 2011, the Ministry of Justice said, "At the same time as his public service, Liberman continued his private businesses, and continued to benefit from the flow of proceeds to companies under his control, in violation of the duty to report this activity and filing false reports about his activity and assets."

Liberman is suspected of falsely reporting to the public and the State Comptroller that he had sold all his rights in the companies, and that he had no contact with them, even though in practice he continued his business dealings with these companies, and benefited from their proceeds. He did this by setting up new companies or acquiring companies in Israel, Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands, which were registered in the names of straw men.

In 2009, after an investigation, the Police recommended indicting Liberman on charges of accepting bribes, aggravated fraudulent receiving, fraud and breach of trust, obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, and money laundering. A few months after the Police concluded their investigation and submitted their recommendation, the Economics Department of the State Prosecutor's Office requested an additional investigation.

At the same time, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and then-Attorney General Meni Mazuz began discussing the case. Mazuz deliberated whether to accept the case, at least in principle until a hearing, until his term ended in January 2010, when he passed it on to his successor, Weinstein.

In response to a query by "Globes", Ministry of Justice spokesman Adv. Moshe Cohen said, "The decision-making process is at its height, and we do not intend to discuss the content of the discussions. When the process is complete, the decision will announced to everyone. Any report on this matter is at the sole responsibility of the reporter."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on August 27, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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