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Haim Katz to get suspended sentence, fine for minor fraud in plea bargain

CM 09/11/2021

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Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday filed an indictment against Likud MK and former minister Haim Katz with the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on a minor fraud charge as part of a plea bargain.
Part of the deal includes Katz waiving his parliamentary immunity and an agreement by the sides to seek a sentence including a fine and a suspended prison sentence without serving jail time.
The final charge in the deal is conspiracy to achieve a goal that in and of itself was legal but was achieved by illegal means, relating to Katz’s abuse of his power as former Knesset Social Welfare Committee chairman.

Katz still serves as a key power broker within the Likud, with a major role in determining when Likud primaries take place.
The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel slammed Mandelblit, saying he had lost his nerve in cutting a lenient deal with Katz, which included no jail time.

MK Haim Katz at this immunity hearing at the Knesset, February 4, 2020 (credit: KNESSET PRESS SERVICE/ADINA VALMAN)MK Haim Katz at this immunity hearing at the Knesset, February 4, 2020 (credit: KNESSET PRESS SERVICE/ADINA VALMAN)

Further, the NGO cited Mandelblit’s prior statements about how serious Katz’s conduct had been as ammunition for its arguments that the minor charge was insufficient and would essentially embolden other corrupt politicians to think that fraud is worth it because there will be few consequences even if they are caught.
On September 30, Mandelblit told the High Court of Justice he might close a plea deal with Katz in the coming three weeks.
In October 2020, Mandelblit said he was leaning toward indicting the senior Likud MK for NIS 2.2 million in tax fraud.
In February 2020, under a prior government, the Knesset voted to grant Katz immunity from a prior indictment that Mandelblit had decided to file.
If no deal was reached, Mandelblit had also told the court he might try once again to remove Katz’s immunity regarding the prior indictment with the new Knesset and to indict him under the new tax-fraud charges at the same time.
According to a previous Justice Ministry statement, between 2007 and 2018, Katz earned significant rental income from seven real-estate properties in his name and in the name of certain family members.
Regarding some of the properties, Katz had failed to report his rental income entirely to the tax authorities, and with others, he had only partially reported and did so significantly late, the statement said.
The charges were administrative and not criminal, attorney Navit Negev had previously said, adding that the only reason the allegations had been pushed into the criminal sphere was because of Katz’s political status.
The allegations would be rebutted at the pre-indictment hearing, and the ministry’s statement had recognized that some of the properties were not in Katz’s name, she said.
In August 2019, Mandelblit announced he would file the earlier and more serious indictment against Katz for fraud and breach of trust.
According to that indictment, Katz had violated conflict-of-interest principles in his economic dealings with Equital Ltd.’s Motti Ben-Ari on several occasions and covered it up to obtain illegal economic gains for the two of them. This narrative was highlighted in the amended indictment filed as part of the plea deal.
Katz loudly supported a 2010 reform to the country’s insolvency laws that was allegedly intended to help Ben-Ari and his company, in which Katz had invested heavily.
This would mean that Katz helped advance legislation to personally benefit himself along with his primary financial adviser and close friend.
In the past, a spokeswoman for Katz said the Knesset had granted him immunity in February 2020, and he had not committed even an ethical violation.
Though the Knesset saved Katz from that indictment going to court at the time, Mandelblit’s decision forced him to resign his ministerial portfolio, and the new Knesset could have reviewed the earlier Knesset’s grant of immunity.
The newer tax charges might not have given Katz a chance at parliamentary immunity since the tax violations were, unlike the prior charges, unrelated to his role as a public servant.
Mandelblit’s August 2019 decision had already cleared Katz of charges in a third affair, the Israel Aerospace Industries case, in which the police had recommended he be indicted.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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