Att'y General will only publish Deri decision after elections

Mandelblit waiting on Deri indictment, despite fears by Shas that Mandelblit would announce decision shortly before elections.

Tzvi Lev,

Flash 90

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will wait until after elections to announce whether he will indict Shas leader and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Hadashot reported.

Police had recommended that Deri stand trial for a slew of tax offenses last year. Due to his position as a government minister, Deri can only be indicted following a decision by Mandelblit.

Shas had been worried that the Attorney General would publish his decision shortly before the April elections and sink the party's electoral chances. The party barely crosses the electoral threshold in many surveys and a decision to indict Deri would likely deal a fatal blow to the Sephardic haredi party.

The current electoral threshold of 3.25% requires a party to win the equivalent of 3.9 seats’ worth of votes to gain representation in the Knesset. Shas, which has been represented in every Knesset since 1984, has been the largest haredi party for the past three decades. In 1999, during the trial of former Shas chief Aryeh Deri, the party soared to 17 seats, the most a haredi faction has ever won.

In recent years, however, the party has been in decline, falling to 12 then 11 seats, before sinking to just 7 mandates in 2015.

In November, investigators said they had formed the basis for an indictment against Deri on charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax violations involving millions of shekels, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and having provided a false statement to the State Comptroller.

The police recommendation to indict Minister Deri comes after an in-depth investigation of the Shas chief and his brother, Shlomo Deri, along with other suspects in the case.

The preliminary probe was first opened in late 2015, following suspicious bank activity in accounts tied to Deri and several family members.

Police revealed the probe in March 2016, which was subsequently upgraded to a full criminal investigation.

Deri, who served as Interior Minister in the 1990s, was forced to resign from his position in 1993 amid charges of bribery. He was later convicted and sentenced to three years in prison in 1999 on corruption and obstruction of justice charges.

After serving 22 months in prison, Deri was released early in 2002 for good behavior, but was barred from returning to politics for seven years.

In 2013, Deri was elected to the Knesset on the Shas list, and was reappointed party chairman.