Ex-defense minister Ben-Eliezer indicted for corruption

Prosecutors filed an indictment Wednesday in the Tel Aviv District Court against former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer accusing him of taking bribes, money laundering, breach of trust, fraud and tax offenses.

Among the five separate criminal incidents alleged in the indictment, all said to have taken place between 2007 and 2014, the former Labor party leader is charged with demanding and receiving over two million shekels (over $500,000) from businesspeople in exchange for actions he purportedly took as a public servant.

He is also accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth in foreign currencies that he kept hidden and unreported in safes in his home and a bank, apparently in violation of tax laws and transparency rules for Knesset members. The funds were purportedly used to buy real estate, including an apartment in Jaffa.

In a laconic statement Wednesday, Ben-Eliezer’s attorney, Yaakov Weinrot, said the defense would “learn the material. We believe in his innocence and will deal with the claims in court.”

The 79-year-old Ben-Eliezer, a former IDF brigadier general, has held some of the most prominent posts in Israel’s public service during his three decades in elected office, including serving at various points as minister of housing and construction, communications, national infrastructures, industry and trade, and defense.

News of the investigation against Ben-Eliezer broke just days before the June 2014 Knesset election for the nation’s presidency, forcing him to withdraw his candidacy. He resigned from the Knesset in December 2014 citing poor health.

The indictment, approved by Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein at the recommendation of State Attorney Shai Nitzan, names additional suspects who are said to be linked to Ben-Eliezer’s alleged activities, including Ben-Eliezer’s former chief of staff Ayelet Azulai and businessmen Avraham Nanikashvilli, Roi Mutzafi, Charlie Yehudah and Jacky Ben Zaken.

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