Israeli FM Grilled over Alleged Bribes from Michael Chernoy

Crime | April 3, 2009, Friday // 12:08| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria Israeli FM Grilled over Alleged Bribes from Michael Chernoy: Israeli FM Grilled over Alleged Bribes from Michael Chernoy Israeli police questioned the Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on suspicion of bribery and money laundering. Photo by The Times

Just one day after being sworn in as Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman was questioned by police on allegations of receiving bribes from businessmen Martin Schlaff and Michael Chernoy in the period 2001-2004, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Martin Schlaff was the head of an investment group that acquired in 2002 Mobiltel EAD, Bulgaria's largest mobile phone company, before selling it to current owner Telekom Austria AG.

Russian-born Israeli citizen Michael Chernoy was banned to enter Bulgaria in 2000. He is a highly contradictory figure, who at a certain period of time partnered killed Emil Kyulev, Bulgaria's top banker, and has been presented both as a serious billionaire and Russian oligarch in the media.

The marathon interrogation session Avigdor Lieberman spaned over seven-and-a-half hours and was conducted by the National Fraud Unit and Lahav 433 anti-organized crime unit detectives on suspicions of bribery, money laundering, fraudulent receipt of goods, and breach of public trust.

Lieberman is suspected of using a Cypriot bank account registered under the name of his daughter, Michal, to launder millions of shekels in funds.

Police also suspect Lieberman of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes between 2001 and 2004, while serving as national infrastructures minister and as transportation minister, allegedly receiving the funds from businessmen Martin Schlaff and Michael Chernoy.

Police suspect some of the funds may have passed through a consultancy firm owned by Lieberman's daughter, as well as a company owned by Lieberman himself. Lieberman is also suspected of running personal business affairs while holding a ministerial post.

Lieberman's office issued a nonchalant statement following the interrogation.

"This is the same investigation that has lasted 13 years, with [Lieberman] even submitting an appeal to the High Court of Justice in order to expedite the matter," the statement said. "Today he cooperated, answered his interrogators' questions and enjoyed police coffee."

The interrogation came one day after Lieberman rattled police brass by arriving unexpectedly at the inauguration of Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovitch, also of Yisrael Beitenu.

 

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