Israel Police and the Israel Tax Authority have recommended to the State Attorney's Office to indict Minister of the Interior Aryeh Machluf Deri on charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and making a false declaration. Deri had been suspected of accepting bribes, but after reviewing the evidence the police decided not to recommend charges on that count.
Israel Police and the Tax Authority have concluded an extensive investigation of the affairs of Deri and his brother, Adv. Shlomo Deri, and additional suspects.
The file was opened in 2015 after "Globes" reporter Shlomit Tsur revealed that since 2010 Deri together with wife Yaffa had held rights in a construction project in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood, and had sold the rights to Adv. Shlomo Deri in 2013, before Aryeh Deri returned to a ministerial appointment. Shlomo Deri sued "Globes" and Shlomit Tsur for NIS 100,000 for slander, but withdrew the lawsuit in June 2017 on the recommendation of the Jerusalem Magistrates Court after it was made clear to him that the report did not constitute slander. "Globes" and Tsur were represented by Adv. Yoram Mushkat.
At the same time, the Israel Tax Authority opened an investigation into cash transfers between the brothers, in the course of which further suspicions arose concerning other assets held by the family.
A covert investigation began in 2015 by the police Lahav 433 fraud unit, assisted by the Money Laundering Authority, that gave rise to suspicion of unusual activity in bank accounts connected to Aryeh Deri and members of his family, indicating transfers of substantial amounts of money from business people to the family, partly before Aryeh Deri's return to politics and partly afterwards.
In April 2016, an overt investigation into the affair began, and in May 2017, Aryeh Deri himself was questioned under caution.
Despite the fact that Deri was explicitly required not to speak to one of those involved about the matters under investigation and was warned about tampering with evidence, he immediately contacted the person in question and spoke to him about the content of the investigation, his expected testimony to the police, and refreshed his memory.
The investigation findings established an evidentiary basis for charges of fraud and breach of trust against Aryeh Deri in relation to his conduct in the affairs of a businessman during the time he served as a government minister, and of tax offences amounting to millions of shekels, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and lying on oath to the State Comptroller and the Speaker of the Knesset in a declaration of his assets and income.
Evidence was also found against Adv. Shlomo Deri, who serves as deputy chairman of the Jewish National Fund, of substantial tax offences and money laundering, and of tax offences involving additional suspects.
A separate investigation into another affair involving Aryeh Deri has not yet been concluded, but the police decided not to delay transferring the first file to the State Attorney's Office on that account.
A statement from Aryeh Deri's bureau says, "We welcome the conclusion of the police investigation that has lasted almost three years. We view with satisfaction the dropping of the severe suspicions of bribery, theft from non-profit organizations and other charges, which at the time led to the opening of the investigation. We believe that when the State Attorney's Office examines the matter, the other suspicions will also be removed, and it will turn out that minister Aryeh Deri did not break the law."
Adv. Yaron Kostelitz, representing Adv. Shlomo Deri, said that he was sure that the State Attorney's Office would reach the conclusion that Adv. Deri committed no crime whatsoever and that there were no grounds for indicting him.
A statement on behalf of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel said, "The State of Israel is the only country in the world, apart from India, where a minister convicted of a criminal offence has returned to a ministerial post. In such an atmosphere of lack of accountability, a culture of corruption and unacceptable norms develops, with the police recommendations referring not just to offences that Deri has allegedly committed, but also to alleged grievous attempts by him to obstruct justice."
In 2000, Aryeh Deri was sentenced to three years in jail after being convicted of accepting bribes when serving as Minister of the Interior.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 20, 2018
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