Israel AG drops graft charges against Lieberman, indicts for breach of trust

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Israel’s Attorney General on Thursday announced that after a twelve year investigation, he is dropping major money laundering and graft charges against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, but intends to indict him for breach of trust, Haaretz reports:

On Thursday Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced Thursday the decision to close the major case against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, thereby concluding a 12-year investigation.

Weinstein closed the main case against Lieberman, which involves allegations of money-laundering, fraud, and breach of trust, on suspicion he received millions of dollars from international tycoons like Martin Schlaff and Mikhail Chernoy through foreign companies while he was serving in public positions.

However, Weinstein announced his decision to indict Lieberman for breach of trust for allegedly working to promote former ambassador to Belarus Ze'ev Ben Aryeh without reporting that Ben Aryeh had given Lieberman information about the investigation against him being conducted in Belarus. There are those in the legal community who believe that while Lieberman's alleged actions in this instance may have been ethically improper, it isn't clear that any illegalities were involved.

So can Lieberman still serve? Maybe. Haaretz:

If criminal charges are filed against Lieberman, and the Knesset nevertheless approves his appointment as a cabinet minister following the January 22 election, any court reviewing the legality of the appointment would presumably give a large degree of deference to the Knesset's decision.

“I believe the legal requirement is for a minister to resign if indicted, until the end of the legal proceedings and then can return if cleared,” an Israeli official told the Back Channel. “I think he can still run for Knesset, just not be a minister.”
Update: Lieberman, for his part, said Thursday that he wants a fast trial, and does not have to resign, but will make a final decision after consulting with his lawyers.

(Photo: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (L) speaks with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during the 2012 Saban Forum on U.S.-Israel Relations at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, November 30, 2012.  REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert.)

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