Israel FM indicted on fraud, says not to resign

2012-12-13 19:48:48 GMT2012-12-14 03:48:48(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded on Thursday evening to the Attorney General's decision to indict him on fraud and breach of trust, saying he is not going to resign anytime soon.

"According to legal counsel, I'm not obliged to resign but I will make the final decision together with my attorneys," Lieberman said at an Israel Beytenu Party's gathering with young supporters in Tel Aviv.

Lieberman attacked law authorities in Israel and said he's been prosecuted by them for a while.

"Ever since I came to Israel in 1978, there wasn't a day in which I wasn't part of an interrogation or an intelligence target, " Lieberman told the crowd. "Since 1996, when I became the Prime Minister Office's director-general, I've been in ongoing investigation."

As for the incident for which he will be indicted for, in which he is alleged to promote former Belarus ambassador, Ze'ev Ben-Arye, in exchange for the latter providing him with confidential information from the police's interrogation against him in Belarus, Lieberman called it "nonsense."

He said the incident was a "one-time slip" and that destinies shouldn't be decided on such things.

"If I'll have to, I'll pay the price with pride. Once the decision was made I asked my lawyers to remove my immunity. I want a trial as quick as possible," Lieberman said.

Regarding the upcoming January 22 elections, he said "we're at the height of an elections period and obviously there's public interest in this decision," adding that "we must win the elections. "

He also added that the final decision would be made after counsel with his lawyers and after consideration of not hurting the voters, 400,000 of which voted for Lieberman's party in 2009.

Earlier Thursday evening, after a 12-year investigation, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to indict Lieberman on breach of trust charges but closed the major case against him involving suspicions of money laundering, bribery and fraud, among others.

The major suspicion in the "straw companies" affair is that between 2001 and 2008, while Lieberman held public posts, he received millions of dollars from private businessmen through straw companies.

Weinstein explained that the evidence was insufficient and inconclusive to hold in criminal court and said the main problem in establishing an indictment in this case was the lack of witnesses.

During the last 12 years of the ongoing, world-wide investigation, witnesses have suffered ailments, some of died while others simply refused to corporate with the Israeli authorities.

The AG left open the question of the immediate ramifications of his decision amid the January 22 elections coming up around the corner.

The Israeli law states that if a sitting cabinet member is indicted for what is deemed "serious offense" they must resign or be dismissed. However the definition is very loose so it's not clear whether he'll be forced to step down.

Left-wing politicians on Thursday called upon Lieberman to resign and Labor chairman Shelly Yachimovich said the matter might go on to the Supreme Court if necessary.

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