Sufficient evidence to indict Shas chief, police say

Shas chief suspected of fraud, breach of trust, tax violations on millions of shekels, and providing false statement to Comptroller.

David Rosenberg ,

Aryeh Deri
Aryeh Deri
Esti Dasiodov/TPS

Israeli police say they have sufficient evidence to charge Shas chief and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri with a series of corruption charges and tax violations.

In an announcement Tuesday morning, 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 findings of the investigation are that there is an evidentiary basis against Deri that he committed fraud and breach of trust in connection with his conduct while serving as a minister," the police department said in a statement Tuesday.

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’s office responded Tuesday in a statement noting that some of the most serious accusations, including bribery, had been dropped, and expressed confidence that no indictment would ultimately be filed.

“We are happy to see the end of the police investigation, which has lasted nearly three years. It was with satisfaction that we saw the more serious charges of receiving bribes had been dropped, along with accusations of stealing from organizations, which were the original basis for the investigation. We believe that when the prosecution analyzes the matter, the remaining charges will be dropped and it will be found that Minister Aryeh Deri did not break the law.”

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.