Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, wife questioned in tax fraud case

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem, Israel, Nov. 7, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem, Israel, Nov. 7, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and his wife, Yaffa, were questioned by investigators after 14 suspects in a tax fraud case against Deri were detained.

Deri, who also is head of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party, and his wife, were questioned separately on Monday following the arrests. The couple is being investigated as part of a Tax Authority investigation into money laundering and false income and assets reporting.

The case against Deri also could be broadened out to include bribery, according to the Ynet news website.

The suspects were detained in a joint operation of the Lahav 433’s National Fraud Investigations Unit and the Tax Authority.

Among the incidents being investigated is a real estate deal in which assets were transferred personally by Deri to his brother Shlomo before Deri reentered politics. A second incident under investigation involves an unreported Deri family vacation home in the northern Israel, which Deri claims the whole family participated in paying for.

“The Interior Minister has said from the beginning that he is willing to fully co-operate and answer all questions. He trusts the law enforcement system to do its job responsibly and properly,” said a statement released on Deri’s behalf.

Deri became interior minister in January, more than two decades after resigning from the same position over corruption charges for which he would be indicted and convicted. In 2000, he was sentenced to three years in prison; he spent nearly two years behind bars.

Under his conviction for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Deri was barred from public service in the political arena for seven years. He was reinstated as chairman of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party in 2013.

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