By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Longtime Shas leader Aryeh Deri submitted his letter of resignation to the Knesset Speaker Sunday in accordance with a plea agreement he signed last week to avoid jail time on tax evasion charges.
As part of the deal, Deri admitted to minor tax offenses and will pay a NIS 180,000 fine. He will not receive a prison sentence and will not be required to perform any community service. Nor will he be charged with moral turpitude, which would disqualify him from serving as a legislator for seven years.
However, should he seek to become a minister in a future government, that charge could be revived, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said.
Deri was allowed to retain his position as chairman of the ultra-Orthodox, Sephardic party and vowed to continue his public activity and strengthen Shas.
He also maintained his innocence, saying upon signing the agreement with the State Prosecutor’s Office, “As far as the tax disputes are concerned, I have decided to take responsibility for mistakes made without malicious intent in order to put the affair behind me and save an entire trial in the matter.”
He also thanked God “for ending almost seven years of torturous interrogation that was unbearable for me and my family.”
There were three cases pending against the political leader. In one, Deri allegedly sold a Jerusalem property to his brother Shlomo in 2013 and under-reported the proceeds from the sale. That same year he had an American investment fund pay Shlomo regular commissions that were due to Deri. Shlomo then gave fake consulting invoices to cover the NIS630,000 ($210,000) that he received from the fund.
The third case stemmed from Deri allegedly telling a businessman who owed him money to mask it as a donation to a charity run by Deri’s associate.
Deri had already been through a similar process. He received a three-year sentence in 1999 after being convicted of bribery, fraudת and breach of trust for using his various positions in the Ministry of the Interior, including as its head, to funnel money illegally to various religious institutions and receive benefits in return.
Back then, the charges did include moral turpitude, and he only returned to the Knesset in 2012, after wresting back control of Shas from Eli Yishai, the man who replaced him during his enforced absence.
As per Knesset rules, the resignation will go into effect in 48 hours. The head of Shas’ French campaign, Rabbi Yosef Tayeb, has been named to take Deri’s place.