Interior Minister’s legal woes intensify

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, under investigation for alleged money laundering and tax evasion, says he’s willing to cooperate with the authorities.

For Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, it’s déjà vu all over again as Israel Police’s Lahav 443 unit investigates allegations of money laundering and the false reporting about income and assets. Following new findings from the investigation, Deri and his wife Yaffa may also be investigated for bribery.

In 2000 the Morocco-born Shas lawmaker was released after spending 22 months in Ramla’s Maasiyahu Prison. Deri had been convicted of taking $155,000 in bribes while serving as Interior Minister.

Rehabilitated, Deri pushed aside Member of Knesset Eli Yishai as chairman of the Shas party, and then returned to his old job as Interior Minister.

Now he is under a cloud again for tax irregularities. On Sunday, investigators from the National Fraud Investigations Unit and the Tax Authority detained 14 suspects related to the investigation into Deri and his family for tax fraud. On Monday, Deri and his wife were questioned by police.

Among Deri’s associates detained for questioning were a director-general of a government ministry and a senior businessman. Police are investigating funds being siphoned from the ministry to the Deri family and associates.

“This is an investigation that began in April 2016 and was originally based on reasonable suspicion of tax offenses mainly in the area of property. Following a broadening of suspicions, more suspects were identified, including public officials and the minister’s wife,” police said in a statement.

Among Deri’s suspicious affairs was a real estate deal in which assets were transferred by Deri to his brother Shlomo. Another incident being investigated centers on the construction of a Deri family vacation villa in the Galilee community of Kfar Hoshen. Deri claims that no only he, but also his entire family had contributed to the construction of the home.

According to estimates, the value of the house is NIS 4 million. It was built in 2013 after permits were granted to Deri’s daughter and her husband. The tax authority suspects that Deri and his family financed construction of the home through undeclared assets.

In addition to real estate in the north, the Givat Shaul neighborhood in Jerusalem in also included in the investigation. Deri reportedly had rights to land containing a building with five apartments. Tax Authority officials suspect that Deri illegally transferred the apartments to his brother Shlomo just before his return to politics.

Police and tax investigators have questioned Deri’s brother, his daughter and several Jerusalem-area contractors in connection with the case.

A statement was issued on behalf of Deri, saying, “The Interior Minister has said from the beginning that he is willing to fully cooperate and answer all questions. He trusts the law enforcement system to do its job responsibly and properly.”

By: Gil Zohar, World Israel News