A final decision on whether or not to prosecute Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on criminal charges will be made within the next few weeks, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein announced Monday, in response to a query by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.
In a letter, the movement demanded to know why no progress was being made on the investigation into suspicions that the foreign minister had engaged in fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, and witness tampering.
Responding to the query, Assistant Attorney-General Noa Mishor said Monday that the decision on whether to go ahead with the draft indictment against Lieberman would not be postponed, even in the event of early elections being held later this year.
Should the attorney-general decide to prosecute, Lieberman will not be allowed to serve in the next government. The suspicion is that Lieberman received millions of dollars from private businesspeople abroad, among them Austrian entrepreneur Martin Schlaff, Israeli-Uzbeki businessman Michael Cherney, and diamond tycoons Dan Gertler and Daniel Gittenstein, who allegedly funneled funds through what may have been front companies and corporations owned by Lieberman.
Lieberman's lawyers denied the allegations at the pre-indictment hearings earlier this year. The state prosecution, which reports to the attorney-general, has since deliberated the case over the course of several meetings to determine its legal merits and the evidence produced by the 14-year investigation.
"We are awaiting amended pleading material on several issues from Lieberman's lawyers, which they had asked submit in writing," read a statement released by the attorney-general's office. "The attorney-general has decided that the material must be submitted by the end of next week. A decision in the Lieberman case can be expected within weeks."
Weinstein has recently issued a directive to his subordinates at the national and local level on the prosecutorial conduct they should subscribe to in the run-up to elections, saying: "As far as law enforcement is concerned, the eve of elections means business as usual when it comes to elected officials and candidates running for office; generally speaking, the conduct surrounding such cases should be governed by the merits of the case and the prioritization that is normally in place."
A decision to go to trial will likely have far-reaching political ramifications since filing an indictment against a cabinet minister would automatically force him to step down. A trial could have an adverse effect on his party, Yisrael Beitenu, which according to polls could increase from its current 15 seats to become one of the biggest Knesset factions.