Israeli interior minister faces charges of fraud, perjury and tax evasion

Israeli police recommended Tuesday that Interior Minister Aryeh Deri be indicted on fraud charges while opponents call for his resignation.

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri faces charges of fraud, money laundering and perjury. Photo Abir Sultan/EPA
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri faces charges of fraud, money laundering and perjury. Photo Abir Sultan/EPA

The Shas party leader faces charges of fraud, breach of trust, perjury, tax evasion and money laundering.
Police will submit its findings to the State Attorney’s Office and, if found guilty, Deri could go to jail for a second time. The police did not find evidence of bribery.

“We welcome the conclusion of the police investigation that lasted almost three years. We received with satisfaction the suspension of the serious suspicions of receiving bribes [and] stealing from associations and others, which at the time led to the opening of the investigation,” Deri’s office said in a statement. “We believe that when the State Prosecutor’s Office works on the matter, the rest of the suspicions will also be cleared and it will become clear that Minister Arye Deri did not break the law.”

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The tax offenses alone total millions of shekels, which goes hand-in-hand with the perjury charges where he submitted false written declarations about his assets and earnings, police said.

Fraud investigators found suspicious transfers of hundreds of thousands of shekels from businessmen to Deri before and after he returned to politics in 2012.

Deri was also warned not to talk with the parties involved for fear of evidence tampering.

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“But the minister approached that involved party immediately after his questioning and his expected testimony to the police, as well as ‘refreshed’ his memory,” police said.

Deri went to jail in 2000 after being convicted of taking bribes as interior minister. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed him to the interior ministry position in 2016.

His brother Shlomo Deri also faces charges for tax offenses totaling millions of shekels. Others could also face charges.

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Yesh Atid party leader Yair Atid said Netanyahu should demand Deri’s resignation.

“But a prime minister with a recommendation for an indictment cannot exactly say something to an interior minister with a recommendation for an indictment,” Lapid said.

Zionist Union MK Saleh Sa’ad repeated the call for Deri to resign and fight to prove his innocence.

“This is a very bad message to the public in the continuation of Deri’s tenure as minister in the government,” Sa’ad said.

Deri could face additional charges for the nature of payments made to him, the sale of land in different Israeli cities and statements he made to the speaker and missing information in his declarations to the tax authorities. The investigation into these matters is ongoing but authorities didn’t want to delay pursuing the other charges.

ByNicholas Sakelaris