Former senior Israeli minister convicted of tax crimes

After resigning from the Knesset on Sunday, former Interior Minister Aryeh Deri admitted to committing tax offenses as part of a plea deal.

By Zevi Pilzer, World Israel News

Aryeh Deri, Israel’s former Interior Minister and leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, accepted Tuesday morning a plea bargain in the Israeli court.

The deal was offered to Deri by the attorney general last month, and on Sunday he submitted his resignation from the Knesset.

As part of the agreement, Deri would admit to and be convicted of tax crimes and pay a 180,000-shekel fine. In return, he would avoid prison time and the offenses would be treated without ‘turpitude,’ which would enable him to return to politics in the future.

The judge said that the decision on the verdict will be made next week.

Deri addressed the case after the court hearing.

“I accept full responsibility. No one forced this deal upon me, I wanted it. I join the state’s request that it be accepted as soon as possible,” he said. “I have considered for a long time whether to resign from the Knesset or not. What helped me reach a decision is the bargain being presented to me in a way that left me no choice.”

“In a just and decent system, I would expect that all the suspicions of integrity offenses would be removed. But I know what a trial is. I know how it begins and how it ends,” Deri added.

This is not the first time the 62-year-old politician has been convicted. In 1999, while serving as Interior Minister, Deri was charged and found guilty of bribery, fraud and breach of trust felonies.

The ultra-orthodox party leader was sentenced to three years in prison (out of which he served two) and was banned from returning to politics for 10 years.

Deri, who claimed all along that he was innocent and that he was being persecuted by the Israeli justice system, resumed political life at the first opportunity, leading the Shas party once again since the end of 2012.

In the past nine years, Deri has been a Member of Knesset and has served in several ministerial positions as part of the governments led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.