Israeli opposition leader under probe over alleged graft

Jerusalem, March 31 (IANS) Israel’s attorney general confirmed on Wednesday that a probe is underway against opposition leader Isaac Herzog for alleged corruption charges.

The police probe against Herzog, head of the centre-left Zionist Union list in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), revolves around improprieties in funds received during the internal elections at the labour party, part of the Zionist Union list, back in 2013, Israeli media reported.

Herzog is suspected of receiving funds indirectly from contractors, therefore bypassing laws limiting the amount each candidate can receive from a single donour, the Channel 10 news reported, according to Xinhua.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said in a statement on Wednesday the probe is currently limited in its scope and that there is no official criminal investigation against Herzog at this point.

Shortly after Mandelblit’s statement, Herzog said that “frustrated activists” who worked in his campaign, along with other political sources from the right, have turned the spotlight on Herzog in a political attack against him.

“I’m sure the examination will refute these delusional claims once and for all,” Herzog told Israeli reporters on Wednesday evening, saying he will cooperate with the authorities, hoping the issue “will be clarified as soon as possible”.

It is the second alleged corruption affair to surface regarding Israeli politicians in the past 24 hours, with authorities confirming a probe against Interior Minister Aryeh Deri from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party early on Wednesday.

Details regarding the corruption probe are currently under a court gag order.

Deri, 57, is a vital part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’ s narrow right-wing government. He became interior minister in January after former minister Silvan Shalom left office amidst sexual harassment allegations.

He served as interior minister in the early 1990s, and was forced to resign in 1993 over corruption charges. He was found guilty of two counts of bribery, three counts of fraud and breach of trust, fraud under aggravated circumstances and falsifying corporate documents in 1999. Deri served a prison sentence between 2000 and 2003, and returned to Israeli politics in 2011.

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