Shas Accused of Malfeasance, Minister of Not Cooperating

State Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat on Wednesday accused the strictly Orthodox Shas party of gross misuse of government funds and recommended that it be fined $750,000, the highest sum allowable for deliberately concealing pertinent information.

Ben-Porat, who said her accusations were the most damning ever against a political party, accused Shas of wrongfully using state funds that it was susposed to use for legitimate political purposes.

She said that among the illegal activities she unearthed were the employment by Shas of yeshiva students as election campaign workers. Yeshiva students, exempted from military service, are not permitted to work while of army age.

The comptroller charged that the party used public funds to lend money to two of its Knesset members, Shlomo Dayan and Yosef Azran, to buy cars and that it failed to deduct lawful taxes from funds it disbursed.

The report accused Shas Knesset member Rafael Pinhasi, who is minister of communications, of refusing to cooperate with investigators from her office.

Pinhasi, after consulting with lawyers, issued a statement Wednesday evening promising that all questions would be answered when the party’s records are released by the police.

The Shas files were impounded for the investigation of Shas Interior Minister Arieh Deri, who is suspected of financial improprieties.

Left-wing opposition parties, meanwhile, have urged Ben-Porat to turn her evidence over to the police for possible prosecution. They said the findings gave parliamentary democracy a bad name.

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