Inside Israel

Plea deal reached for Shas chief to admit tax offenses, resign from Knesset

Shas party leader Aryeh Deri has reportedly reached a plea deal with prosecutors that will see him admit to two tax offense charges in exchange for resigning from the Knesset and paying a fine of some NIS 180,000 (around $57,000).

Deri, who previously served time behind bars on a bribery conviction, will not be charged with a crime entailing moral turpitude, which would have left him ineligible to hold office in the future, several Hebrew media outlets reported Wednesday. As a result, he would be able to run in the next election.

According to reports earlier this week, Deri would continue to lead the Shas party even from outside the Knesset.

Deri served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002, after he was convicted of taking bribes as interior minister in the 1990s. He reclaimed the leadership of Shas shortly before the 2015 Knesset elections, ousting Eli Yishai, who had led the party in his absence.

Deri returned to his Interior Ministry post in 2016, after a court ruled that his prior conviction did not disqualify him from the position.

In January this year, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he intended to file criminal charges against Deri, pending a hearing.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Deri had initially been suspected of bribery when the investigation began five years ago, but Mandelblit ended up accusing him of the lesser offenses of failing to report income to tax authorities on two occasions and additional tax offenses committed while selling Jerusalem apartments to his brother Shlomo.

In 2018, police recommended filing charges against Deri on suspicion of committing fraud, breach of trust, obstructing court proceedings, money laundering and tax offenses involving millions of shekels.

In 2019, then-state prosecutor Shai Nitzan similarly recommended charging the Shas chairman, but many of those charges were ultimately dropped earlier this year.

Deri welcomed the decision to drop those “false” charges, saying then that he was “convinced that the tax offense will also be closed… after all the facts are laid out before the attorney general.”

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