Israel’s Lieberman says he will resign from politics if convicted


Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he would resign from politics if he is convicted of fraud and breach of trust in the current indictment against him.

Lieberman, who remains head of theYisrael Beiteinu Party, and is number two on the combined Knesset list of his party and the Likud Party behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Monday in an Army Radio interview that he would resign even if not required to by law.

Lieberman would be required to step down if a conviction carries moral turpitude.

Lieberman resigned at the end of December as foreign minister, shortly before his indictment on charges of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly advancing the position of Zeev Ben Aryeh, Israel's former ambassador to Belarus, in exchange for information on an investigation against him. The charges came after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Dec. 13 closed a 12-year investigation of Lieberman in other cases.

Lieberman 's statement that he would resign if convicted, follow statements last week by his party's number two, Yair Shamir, son of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, that Lieberman should resign if found guilty.

“A public official who faltered while in public service must make way for those who have not. Whether the offense carries the designation of moral turpitude or not is irrelevant,” said Shamir, formerly an executive with El Al.

“I agree with him,” Lieberman said on Army Radio. “I think that there have to be clear norms. Even if there is no moral turpitude, I will not continue in politics. There must be clear norms.”

He added that Shamir will not be penalized for his comments “I have no problems with what Shamir said and Shamir will without any doubt have a senior role in the Likud Beiteinu government,” he said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is reportedly the state's key witness in the Ben Aryeh case, and reportedly will testify against Lieberman during the trial. Shortly before the indictment was formally issued, Lieberman announced that Ayalon would not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list for the January elections. Ayalon stayed on at the Foreign Ministry despite Lieberman stepping down.

Avigdor Lieberman formally charged in Jerusalem court


Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was formally charged with fraud and breach of trust.

The indictment, which reportedly includes new and stronger evidence against Lieberman, was filed with the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday morning. Lieberman is charged with advancing the position of Zeev Ben Aryeh, Israel's former ambassador to Belarus, in exchange for information on an investigation against him.

An abuse of authority accusation could mean the court will add moral turpitude to any conviction. Those convicted of moral turpitude cannot seek public office for at least seven years.

Lieberman had waived his parliamentary immunity, seeking a speedy trial that he hoped would be over before the Jan. 22 elections. That no longer appears possible.

The indictment followed questioning of members of a Foreign Ministry appointments panel who previously had not been questioned, as well as further questioning of Lieberman.

Lieberman 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 Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Dec. 13 closed a 12-year investigation of Lieberman, dismissing most of the charges but saying he would file the indictment for fraud and breach of trust. Last spring, Ben Aryeh confessed that he had received and passed documents to Lieberman in 2008.

The filing of the indictment had been postponed in order to question the additional members of the appointments panel.

New evidence includes a conversation between Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon that reportedly shows Lieberman actively lobbying for Ben Aryeh's appointment as ambassador to Belarus. Ayalon reportedly will testify against Lieberman during the trial.

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

Ex-Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman indicted for fraud


Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein submitted the indictment Thursday against Lieberman for allegedly advancing the position of Zeev Ben Aryeh, Israel's former ambassador to Belarus, in exchange for information on an investigation against him. The indictment followed more questioning this week of members of a Foreign Ministry appointments panel as well as further questioning of Lieberman.
Lieberman 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 Lieberman, dismissing most of the charges but saying he would file the indictment for fraud and breach of trust. Last spring, Ben Aryeh confessed that he had received and passed documents to Lieberman in 2008.

The filing of the indictment had been postponed following 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 more serious charges against Lieberman.

New evidence includes a conversation between Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon that reportedly shows Lieberman actively lobbying for Ben Aryeh's appointment as ambassador to Belarus.

Lieberman announced recently that Ayalon would not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list for the Jan. 22 elections. The party is running on a joint candidates' list with the ruling Likud Party. Ayalon has stayed on at the Foreign Ministry despite Lieberman stepping down.

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

Olmert says he has no plans to re-enter politics


Former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, following his acquittal on the most serious corruption charges, said he does not intend to return to politics.

Olmert, speaking Thursday at a conference in Tel Aviv two days after he was acquitted on corruption charges that prompted his resignation from office four years ago, also said that he would remain a member of the Kadima party.

“I want to calm down anyone who is worried—I have no intention of re-entering politics,” Olmert reportedly said a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies. “I am not involved in politics. I deal with other issues and nothing else. I don’t have a shelf party—I am a member of Kadima.”

The Jerusalem District Court acquitted Olmert on charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion and falsifying corporate records in what became known as the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs. He was found guilty on a lesser charge of breach of trust in the Investment Center case, in which Olmert was accused of granting personal favors while he was Israel’s trade minister.

Olmert is expected to appeal the breach of trust conviction, which would carry a prison sentence and make him the first Israeli prime minister to go behind bars. He had pleaded not guilty on all charges.

In a statement made after the executive summary of the decision was read, Olmert said, “After over four years this case has finally come to its end. Four years ago the media was riddled with reports of ‘cash envelopes’ and illicit money. Well, today the court found that there was no such thing. This was not corruption, there were no cash-filled envelopes, there was no bribery, there was no illicit use of funds.”

Four haredi Orthodox men indicted in alleged sex abuse cover-up


Four haredi Orthodox men in Brooklyn were charged with attempting to intimidate and bribe an alleged sexual abuse victim and her boyfriend in a criminal case against a local counselor.

According to the indictment filed June 21, Abraham Rubin, 48, offered the alleged victim and her boyfriend $500,000 to recant testimony against Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed psychotherapist awaiting trial on charges of sexual abuse. Weberman has been accused of 88 counts of sexual misconduct and allegedly molesting the victim in his home and office when she was aged 12 to 15.

Rubin and brothers Joseph Berger, Jacob Berger and Hertzka Berger pleaded not guilty on charges of bribing a witness, witness tampering, coercion and aggravated harassment at their arraignment in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn and were released on bail, according to reports. The Bergers are accused of trying to pressure the couple into not testifying by threatening to remove a kosher certificate in a restaurant owned and operated by the boyfriend.

It is the first case resulting from a new task force to address witness intimidation and harassment in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. The task force was established in May by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in response to media reports that the community regularly hid cases of child sexual abuse from the authorities.

At a news conference announcing the indictments, Hynes defended his office’s action and said that intimidation of victims and witnesses in sex-abuse cases in the Orthodox community has made prosecuting cases difficult.

“Hopefully these indictments serve as an example that we will not tolerate individuals who try to interfere with the pursuit of justice,” Hynes said.

Avigdor Lieberman told he might be indicted


Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been told that he may soon be indicted on charges of fraud, money laundering and break of trust.

The punishment for money laundering alone could be up to a 10-year prison sentence.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed the Kadima Party leader of the possibility on Wednesday, reported Haaretz.

The foreign minister has the right to a hearing in the effort to persuade the attorney general not to move forward with formal charges. If he takes that option, he will not need to resign from the cabinet. If he forsakes the opportunity, his political fate is not clear, according to the newspaper.

About a year-and-a-half ago, the Israeli police’s head of investigations and intelligence division, Yoav Segalovich, recommended that Weinstein charge Lieberman. Conversations on the matter have continued since then between the State Prosecution and the Attorney General offices. Segalovich recommended indicting Lieberman on charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, witness harassment, and obstruction of justice, according to Haaretz.

Police have alleged that Lieberman was given more than 10 million in bribes from businessmen, which was laundered via shell companies and fictitious bank accounts overseas.

The police also have recommended indicting Lieberman for breach of trust in the case of Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, who showed Lieberman secret documents from the investigation against Lieberman, Haaretz reported.

Olmert indicted in Holyland scandal


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been indicted on bribery charges in one of Israel’s largest corruption scandals.

The indictment filed Thursday accuses Olmert of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during the construction of the Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem when he was mayor of Jerusalem and then trade minister.

Seventeen other people were also indicted in the case, including Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken and former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski.

Olmert is currently on trial in three other cases: for allegedly paying for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through the Rishon Tours travel agency; for allegedly accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman Morris Talansky; and for allegedly granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when he served as trade minister in the Investment Center case.

The ex-Israeli leader is charged with fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records and tax evasion. He has pleaded not guilty on all charges.

Olmert is the first former Israeli prime minister to stand trial. He resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted.

John Farahi indicted


John Farahi, a Los Angeles Iranian-Jewish radio talk show host and financial investment manager, last week was charged in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles for allegedly defrauding more than 100 local Iranian-American investors and various financial institutions of nearly $20 million over the course of nearly five years.

The 41-count indictment claims Farahi, 54, misled investors by telling them their funds were being invested by his Beverly Hills firm, NewPoint Financial Services Inc., in unsecured corporate bonds, FDIC-insured certificates of deposit, government bonds and corporate bonds issued by companies backed by funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The indictment alleges Farahi did not make these investments for his clients but instead used the funds to create a Ponzi scheme, making payments to his firm’s earlier clients, trading in high-risk future options and using the funds to support his family’s lavish lifestyle.

“Starting in 2008, Farahi allegedly failed to tell NewPoint Financial Services investors that he had lost at least $15 million through his undisclosed options trading — even as he continued to solicit investors for NewPoint Financial Services,” according to a recently released U.S. Department of Justice statement.

In addition, the indictment claims that since 2003, Farahi has used his radio program, “The Economy Today,” featured on the Studio City-based Farsi-language Radio Iran KIRN 670 AM, to target members of Los Angeles’ Iranian-American community —  many of whom are Iranian Jews — recommending they make appointments at his firm. According to the indictment, Farahi also allegedly lied to major banks about his financial condition in order to draw funds from lines of credit he had with the banks.

In April 2009, following the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into Farahi and his firm, the indictment states that Farahi allegedly conspired with his Century City attorney, David Tamman, to conceal his fraud scheme from the SEC. As a result, Tamman was also recently indicted for his alleged involvement with the cover-up of Farahi’s supposed Ponzi scheme.

According to U.S. federal statutes, if convicted on all 41 criminal counts, Farahi could face a maximum sentence of more than 700 years in federal prison and Tamman could face a maximum sentence of 190 years in federal prison. Farahi voluntarily surrendered to authorities and was taken into custody on Dec. 9; he remains in jail and has been denied bail.

Olmert could be indicted again


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could be indicted in another political corruption affair.

Prosecutors informed Olmert Monday that they are considering indicting him for making political appointments while serving as minister of industry and trade. The indictment is pending a pretrial hearing, where Olmert will have an opportunity to defend himself.

Olmert rejected pretrial hearings before being indicted in three other corruption cases, for which he is currently standing trial.

The political appointments investigation came about as a result of a state comptroller’s report published in 2006.

Olmert also is a main suspect in the probe of the Holyland real estate scandal.

Olmert indicted in corruption case


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was indicted in three corruption cases.

Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office filed the charges on Sunday in three cases alleging that Olmert double-billed for overseas trips, made improper appointments when he was minister of trade and labor and accepted cash from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky. The charges include fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion and falsifying corporate records. The indictment does not include charges of bribery, for which police investigators reportedly had been pressing.

It is the first time that the former Israeli prime minister has been criminally indicted.

Olmert’s former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, also was indicted for her alleged involvement in two of the cases.

Three other corruption investigations against Olmert were closed this summer.

Fired AIPAC Official Foresees Indictment


 

Steve Rosen, recently terminated as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) policy director in the wake of an FBI investigation, expects to be indicted as soon as June, according to sources who know the case.

Rosen has suggested to sources that if he were indicted, he would want an opportunity to clear his name. Rosen expects that a trial could begin as early as January 2006 and already is preparing for a long defense, according to multiple sources.

Along with AIPAC’s former senior Iran analyst, Keith Weissman, and former Pentagon Iran analyst Larry Franklin, Rosen has been targeted by the FBI’s counterintelligence division for allegedly verbally passing classified information to Israel.

Franklin was arrested May 4 and charged with verbally transmitting classified information during a June 26, 2003, luncheon at Tivoli, an Arlington, Va., restaurant. Franklin was not indicted by a grand jury but was arrested on an FBI affidavit, a move that Rosen has said he sees as a government effort to pressure Franklin into claiming there was an actual conspiracy, which he denies.

Franklin, who negotiated a plea bargain with the FBI before he had independent counsel, has since backed away from the deal, according to Franklin defense sources.

Rosen has vehemently denied violating federal law, and denied that he knowingly transmitted classified information. In one of two instances in which Franklin allegedly spoke with AIPAC staffers, this one in a Virginia mall, Rosen was not present, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the encounter.

Rosen’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, has issued a statement saying, “Steve Rosen never solicited, received or passed on any classified documents from Larry Franklin, and Mr. Franklin will never be able to say otherwise.”

Neither Rosen nor Lowell would comment on the record for this story.

Rosen has told contacts that he is convinced the government is still looking for “Mr. X” or “Agent X” — an alleged Israeli master spy in the United States. Jewish communal officials have said they believe the FBI has been seeking a “Mr. X” since the Jonathan Pollard spy scandal in the 1980s.

Rosen has confided to contacts that he believes he still is under surveillance by the FBI, both in his home and in public places. Rosen has said he was under FBI surveillance for three years before the 2003 exchange with Franklin monitored in the restaurant.

Rosen has said, according to sources, that he feels the government’s strategy is to pressure Franklin into wrongfully implicating Weissman, and to pressure Weissman into implicating Rosen.

Rosen said, according to sources, “It won’t work.”

Investigative journalist Edwin Black is a New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of “IBM and the Holocaust” and other books.
 

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