Israel`s Lieberman told he may face fraud charges

Israel FM faces charge for fraud, money laundering and witness-tampering.

Last Updated: Apr 13, 2011, 23:43 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israel`s attorney-general told Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday that he faced indictment for fraud, money laundering and witness-tampering, charges that could force his resignation.

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein would allow Lieberman, who has denied wrongdoing, to plead his case in person before deciding whether to indict him, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

The announcement came as Lieberman, a senior figure in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s conservative coalition government, oversaw a conference of his ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party in Jerusalem. He and his aides had no immediate comment.

Allegations against Lieberman center on the transfer of millions of shekels to what police described as shell companies and accounts belonging to people close to him.

Police had also alleged that Israel`s ambassador to Belarus had leaked information to Lieberman about the proceedings against him.

Though police had recommended Lieberman also be indicted for bribery, this charge did not appear in the Justice Ministry statement.

Israel`s Supreme Court ruled in a 1993 case that the prime minister was required to dismiss a government official who was charged with a crime. Israeli legal analysts say this precedent means Lieberman would be required to step down if indicted.

Bureau Report