Businessman convicted of bribing late Nazi minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer

Avraham Nanikashvili found guilty of giving the former MK $400,000, receiving benefits for his business and affairs in return


Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday convicted businessman Avraham Nanikashvili of bribing the late minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, three years to the day after the latter’s death.

Nanikashvili was found guilty of giving Ben-Eliezer a $400,000 bribe in 2011, when Ben-Eliezer led the National Infrastructure Ministry (now the Energy Ministry). In return Ben-Eliezer allegedly helped advance the businessman’s interests in his capacity as minister.

Ben-Eliezer is believed to have made policy decisions that benefited Nanikashvili’s holdings in oil and gas, and provided an affidavit in support of Nanikashvili as part of the latter’s appeal process with tax authorities.

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The money given to Ben-Eliezer is believed to have been used in his purchase of an upscale home in Jaffa.

The funds were documented by Nanikashvili and Ben-Eliezer as a loan, and both claimed as much when questioned on the matter. However prosecutors noted that it was never returned, nor did Nanikashvili ever seek its return. The judge accepted the assertion, saying the connection between the money and Ben-Eliezer’s actions was clear.

Businessman Avraham Nanikashvili seen at the Tel Aviv District Court on January 10, 2017 (Flash90)

Meanwhile a second defendant in the case, Roy Mussaffi, was exonerated of bribing Ben-Eliezer. He had been suspected of gifting the minister with NIS 700,000 (approx. $200,000) in return for Ben-Eliezer helping him obtain Egyptian visas for his employees.

But unlike in Nanikashvili’s case, the judge accepted Mussaffi’s assertion that the money was a loan, noting that the two had been close friends for years and that Ben-Eliezer’s help on obtaining the visas was given three years prior to Mussaffi giving him the money.

He also harshly criticized investigators’ conduct in questioning Mussaffi, ruling they had violated his rights by failing to question him under caution until he had freely provided them most of the information they used to accuse him. The judge accused authorities of acting in bad faith in that regard.

Ben-Eliezer himself was indicted on graft charges involving bribery by several businessman in 2016 but died at the age of 80 before the case could proceed. The former MK, general and defense minister had been a candidate for president in 2014 but was forced to withdraw and quit politics due to the allegations against him.

Three other defendants in the years-long case were convicted of wrongdoing in subsequent years as part of plea deals with prosecutors.

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