Ex-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman indicted for fraud

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly advancing the position of Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus in exchange for information on an investigation against him.

Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein submitted the indictment Thursday afternoon. Following an extra round of questioning this week of members of a Foreign Ministry appointments panel, and the questioning under caution of Liberman, the case reportedly is now stronger than originally expected.

Liberman resigned last week as foreign minister, although he remains a member of the Knesset and the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party.
His resignation came days after Weinstein on Dec. 13 closed a 12-year investigation of Liberman, dismissing most of the charges. But Weinstein said he would file an indictment of Liberman for fraud and breach of trust for advancing former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben Aryeh’s position in the Foreign Ministry allegedly in exchange for information about an investigation against Liberman being conducted in Belarus. Last spring, Ben Aryeh confessed that he had received and passed documents to Liberman in 2008.

The filing of the indictment was then postponed after a report on Israel’s Channel 10 news that several members of a Foreign Ministry appointments panel were not questioned in the Ben Aryeh case, and that their knowledge could lead to new, more serious, charges against Liberman.

New evidence in the form of a conversation between Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Liberman reportedly strengthens the case against Liberman. The conversation reportedly shows that Liberman actively lobbied for Ben Aryeh’s appointment as ambassador to Belarus.

Liberman recently announced that Ayalon would not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list. The party is running on a joint candidates’ list with the ruling Likud Party. Ayalon has stayed on at the Foreign Ministry despite Liberman stepping down.

Moral turpitude was not added to the charges, though it had been expected. If Liberman was convicted of moral turpitude he could not seek public office for at least seven years.

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