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Ex-MK Haneen Zoabi convicted of fraud, forgery in plea deal

CM 04/10/2021

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The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Monday convicted former Balad MK Haneen Zoabi and 12 other defendants of fraud and forgery.
As part of a plea bargain, many of the original more severe charges were dropped, and Zoabi and the other defendants are expected to get light or suspended sentences, involving community service but without jail time.
The defendants are also expected to pay fines ranging between NIS 25,000-NIS 75,000.

The reduced charges showed that the case was politically motivated, even though Zoabi and 12 defendants confessed to the lesser charges, the Balad Party said Monday.
Those convicted on Monday were part of an indictment filed this August.
In August 2019, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said he would likely indict the Balad Party and Zoabi for public corruption relating to the 2013 election campaign.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit – responsible for the law, and not all aspects of the ethics and fate of the nation. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit – responsible for the law, and not all aspects of the ethics and fate of the nation. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Zoabi was suspected of forgery, using forged documents, falsifying corporate documents, money laundering and attempts to receive fraudulent benefits, he said.
At the time and before extensive negotiations with the suspects and defendants, Mandelblit had said up to 35 other Balad officials and associates could be charged, including former Balad director-general Iwad Hussein and the party’s lawyer, Riad Mahamid.
Originally, they were accused collectively of perpetrating a fraud to receive NIS 3.2 million without properly reporting on the funds in accordance with campaign finance laws.
The forgery and fraudulent documents were allegedly filed with the State Comptroller’s Office as part of the obligations of parties to comply with campaign finance laws and continued from 2013-2016.
Collectively, the accused were suspected of filing 1,300 forged or falsified receipts to support their campaign finance filings.
The charges indicated that officials left signs of having created the documents in 2015-2016, even though they were presented as documents dating back to 2013.
Though the campaign donations’ true illegal source appeared to be covered up, Zoabi and party officials allegedly presented the donations as a large volume of permitted small donations.
Both Balad and Zoabi had initially slammed the charges as a “political crusade” to silence their criticism of the mostly right-wing ruling parties.
Zoabi initially said the charges were “an escalation” in attempts to eliminate Arab-Israeli politicians, including her, who are loud with their criticism after earlier political attempts to get rid of them had failed.
Balad officials admitted to some of the narratives against those involved but said what the prosecution was trying to criminalize were mistakes frequently made by all political parties.
Other parties have faced administrative fines for campaign finance violations, they said, adding that criminal charges were only being used against them because they were Arab-Israelis and were an effort to hurt them in upcoming elections.
In recent years, there have been controversies in which right-wing parties have accused the Arab-Israeli sector of voter fraud at a disproportionate level compared with other sectors.
However, virtually every political party at some point has had at least individual officials accused of fraud or campaign finance violations.
In 2013, for example, the High Court of Justice ordered a redo of the election in Beit Shemesh due to widespread fraud within the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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