JERUSALEM (JTA) – More than 20 activists and members of the Arab-Israeli Balad party were arrested by Israel Police on suspicion of fraud and hiding party assets.
Balad is one of the factions that make up the Arab Joint List, the fourth largest party in Knesset.
None of the party’s current members of Knesset were among those arrested or investigated.
“The National Unit of the Israel Police, in conjunction with various other police forces, has carried out searches and has detained more than 20 people throughout the country,” the Israel Police said in a statement Sunday. “Amongst those detained were high ranking members of the Balad party, lawyers, and accountants. They have been arrested on suspicion of their involvement in several cases of fraud concerning monies obtained and used for campaign financing.
“It is suspected that the people involved in fundraising were hiding the sources of funding, while at the same time committing various offenses which centred around aggravated fraud, falsifying corporate documents, forgery, use of forged documents, money laundering, and Violations of the Party Financing Law and Local Authorities Law, amongst others.
“The party allegedly received millions of shekels from donors from within Israel and from abroad, and fraudulently reported the amount of funding from hundreds of donors from within Israel,” according to the police, which said the investigation was approved by then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein following the findings of the State Comptroller’s Office and the orders of the prosecutor’s office.
Balad denied the charges, calling them “fabricated” and “baseless.”
“This is another dangerous escalation and another element of the political persecution campaign against the Arab minority in general and against the political parties in particular,” the party said in a statement, according to Haaretz. “Balad strongly rejects the allegations against it and against its members, and emphasizes that it manages its party and financial matters in accordance with the law.”
Balad Party lawmakers include controversial Knesset members Haneen Zoabi, Basel Ghatta and Jamal Zahalka.