Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) is undergoing questioning by the 443 anti-fraud unit on Thursday for the sixth time as part of a police investigation against him.
Police have been probing Deri and his wife for alleged money laundering, fraud, breach of trust, theft, fraudulent registration, numerous tax offenses, and corruption. The investigation is a combined effort of police, the tax authorities, and the Justice Ministry's anti-money laundering authority.
Suspicions were aroused in 2016, after reports surfaced of Deri owning multiple homes, which were left unreported to tax authorities, including a villa in Moshav Safsufa that is allegedly worth millions. In May, police detained 14 people for questioning in connection with the corruption investigation linked to the couple, including the Director-General of an unnamed government ministry.
Deri has vigorously proclaimed his innocence. In September Deri tweeted that "I answered all the questions in great detail. With G-d's help, everything will be good" after sitting through a seven-hour grilling by police investigators, his fourth interrogation since the investigation commenced.
Deri, who was convicted in 1999 of bribery and fraud for crimes committed while serving as Interior Minister more than two decades ago, served 22 months in prison and was released in 2002. He returned to the Knesset in 2013 and led the Shas party in the 2015 elections.
Observers point to Deri's possible indictment as a major factor in the political misfortunes of his Shas party. Recent polls have shown that Shas is in dire straits, with a poll last month showing that Shas would not pass the electoral threshold if elections were held today.
Reports have been swirling that Shas' leadership has been holding secret talks with deposed leader Eli Yishai regarding his potential return to the party should Deri be indicted.
Last week, Yisrael Hayom reported that a meeting was recently held between Eli Yishai and one of the rabbis of the Council of Torah Sages examining the possibility of uniting Shas with Eli Yishai's Yahad party. According to the proposal, Shas and Yahad would run on a join slate yet become separate factions after entering the Knesset, as the Zionist Union and Tekumah parties did.