Israeli Police Ready to Question Lawmakers on Russian Mafia Ties

Israeli police have drawn up a list of seven Knesset members they plan to question in connection with their investigation into Gregory Lerner, who is suspected of involvement in organized crime in Israel and Russia.

Investigators presented Knesset speaker Dan Tichon with the list of the Knesset members on Sunday. Although police refused to name the Knesset members, Israeli media reported that they were from the Likud, Labor and Yisrael Ba’Aliyah parties.

Police will probe whether Lerner, also known as Zvi Ben-Ari, made contributions to any of the parties or politicians, and whether they were given in the form of bribes.

Former Labor Secretary Nissim Zvilli told police last week that Lerner, a millionaire businessman who had ties in Russia media, had offered to broadcast Labor campaign ads on Russian television stations picked up in Israel during last year’s national elections, according to Israeli media.

Zvilli said the party, after consulting with its legal adviser, turned down the offer.

Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein of Yisrael Ba’Aliyah said that Lerner contributed some $100,000 to an immigrant organization headed by former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky before he founded Yisrael Ba’Aliyah, which derives much of its support from Jews who immigrated from the former Soviet Union.

Lerner is suspected of bank fraud and possible involvement in organized crime killings in Russia. A Russian prosecution team traveled to Israel this month in connection with the investigation.

During a court hearing Sunday, police disclosed that Lerner, who was arrested shortly before trying to leave the country, had liquidated his assets in Israel and transferred them to banks in the United States and Europe.

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