Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is considering closing the corruption case against Interior Minister Aryeh Deri despite recommendations from police and prosecutors to file charges, citing flaws in the evidence, a TV report said Tuesday.
In November 2018, police recommended filing charges against the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party on suspicion of committing fraud, breach of trust, obstructing court proceedings, money laundering and tax offenses involving millions of shekels. Some of the incidents allegedly occurred while Deri was a cabinet minister.
Last year then-state attorney Shai Nitzan similarly recommended charging Deri.
However, according to Channel 13 news some in Mandelblit’s team contend that the evidence provided by police is insufficient, and the attorney general has for weeks been debating whether Deri should be indicted, and if so — on what charges.
Mandelblit recently ordered the case sent to the State Attorney’s Office for additional investigative action, the report said.
A final decision on the matter is expected in the coming weeks, and the report said it was unclear if it would be made before or after the March 2 Knesset elections.
Deri is suspected of diverting hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds to NGOs run by members of his immediate family, as well as suspected tax fraud linked to the sale of apartments to his brother.
Police said the investigation into Deri found evidence of “committing offenses of fraud and breach of trust with respect to his conduct in the case of a businessman while serving as minister, as well as for the commission of tax offenses in significant amounts of millions of shekels, money laundering, disruption of court proceedings and making false statements to the speaker of the Knesset about his assets and revenues.”
Deri served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002, after he was convicted of taking bribes as interior minister in the 1990s.
He reclaimed the leadership of his Shas party shortly before the 2015 Knesset elections, replacing Eli Yishai. He returned to his Interior Ministry post in 2016, after a court ruled his prior conviction did not disqualify him from the position.