Knesset Speaker Cuts off Funds to Shas Party in Wake of Charges

Knesset Speaker Dov Shilansky has cut off the Shas party’s monthly allocation of state funds for January.

The Orthodox party stands accused of misusing state funds in the report of Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat, released last week.

Shilansky acted after the High Court of Justice ruled that the Knesset speaker does not have the authority to weigh the comptroller’s charges against Shas’ statements in its defense.

The justices issued the ruling after civil rights groups argued that by hearing Shas after Ben-Porat published her report, Shilansky would be setting himself up as a court of appeals.

The comptroller, the government’s fiscal watchdog, charged that Shas failed to account for the way it used the monthly allocations all Knesset factions get from the Treasury in proportion to their representation in the legislature.

The funds are supposed to be used for legitimate political purposes and accounted for.

According to the comptroller, Shas used them to make personal loans and to employ yeshiva students who are forbidden by law to work as a condition of their exemption from military service.

She accused the religious party of withholding information and demanded it be fined the maximum allowable for that offense, $750,000.

Meanwhile, army radio reported Sunday that the police will recommend criminal proceedings against Zvi Jacobson, a key aide to Interior Minister Arye Deri of Shas, though not against Deri himself.

According to the report, Jacobson will be charged with accepting payoffs to help certain people avoid military service. The allegations against him surfaced during the broader police investigation into charges that Deri misused government funds, army radio reported.

But that inquiry is moving slowly, Begun in May, the police still do not seem to have sufficient evidence to make a case against the interior minister, who at 31 is youngest in the Cabinet.

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