Former Yisrael MP Beytenu Kirshenbaum sentenced to 10 years in corruption case
Former Yisrael Beytenu Knesset member Faina Kirshenbaum was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for her role in organizing a massive bribery program, considered one of the most major cases of political corruption for years.
In passing the sentence, years more than other senior politicians for corruption convictions in the past, the Tel Aviv District Court fully accepted the prosecution’s arguments and declared that Kirshenbaum’s conduct had been systematic and on a large scale.
Kirshenbaum, a former deputy interior minister, was convicted in March of corruption, tax offenses, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust.
She is one of the main figures in a large-scale corruption investigation into the Yisrael Beytenu party, which has been chaired by current Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman since its founding in 1999. Liberman himself is not a suspect in the case.
Judge Yaron Levy said Kirshenbaum had received “systematic, cunning and sophisticated” bribes for six years from eight separate and unconnected sources, amounting to approximately NIS 2 million (604,415 $), repeating the comments he made when announcing the verdict. The profits and the money were used by Kirshenbaum, members of his family, confidants and the Yisrael Beytenu party, he said.
As Yisrael Beytenu’s official in charge of coalition funds, Kirshenbaum “exploited his power of leadership to illegitimately promote his personal interests.”
“The depth of the accused’s corruption and the gravity and multiplicity of her actions are unique,” Levy said.
Kirshenbaum “has skillfully developed an endless variety of ways and excuses to circumvent the rules of good administration and use public money as if it were his own,” Levy said, noting that she wielded “great influence. power “over millions of shekels each year.
She is expected to start her prison sentence – from which her time in custody will be waived – on September 5. She was also fined 900,000 shekels ($ 274,000).
The court also sentenced the former director general of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rami Cohen, to 30 months in prison for helping Kirschenbaum with this program. He had previously been convicted of corruption and money laundering for his role.
Kirshenbaum’s defense team called the sentence “disproportionate, cruel and ruthless”, vowing to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Rami Cohen’s lawyers have also said they will appeal.
Previously the party’s chief executive, Kirshenbaum was elected to the Knesset in 2009 and served as deputy minister from 2013 to 2015. She resigned shortly after being named as a suspect in the investigation.
She was accused, along with former party headquarters leader David Godovsky, of inappropriately funneling large sums of money to various organizations. In return, these groups reportedly made nepotistic appointments and also redistributed some of the favors to officials in the form of bribes and cash benefits.
In July 2018, the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Godovsky to seven years in prison after being convicted of four counts of corruption, three of money laundering and two of requesting bribes.
The three-year investigation became public in December 2014 with the arrest of 36 officials and former officials. So far, 17 people have been convicted in what is known as Case 242.
The most prominent public official to be shot dead by the investigation was the former Minister of Tourism and MP for Yisrael Beytenu Stas Mezhnikov, who was sent to prison in October 2017 for a 15-month sentence after being convicted. guilty of trying to find a job for her romantic partner in 2012 by funding a student festival in Eilat with funds from the ministry. Festival organizers paid the woman tens of thousands of shekels, while the ministry’s funding amounted to some 1 million shekels ($ 305,000).