JERUSALEM, Sept. 4 (JTA) – A suspected member of a Russian organized crime ring in Israel has been charged with fraud and blackmail charges, including an attempt to blackmail former Labor Party leader Shimon Peres. Gregory Lerner, who has been in custody since his arrest in May, was charged Sunday by the state prosecutor with 14 counts of blackmail, and with defrauding banks and corporations in Israel, Russia and Europe of some $100 million. A court hearing was set for later this week. Lerner, who immigrated to Israel in 1989, was also investigated on suspicion of involvement in two murders committed in Russia. But Sunday’s indictment did not include any charges in connection with those murders. Prosecutors said Lerner allegedly bribed former Labor Knesset member Gideon Saguy in order to have him support Lerner’s plan to set up a bank in Israel. Despite Saguy’s efforts, Lerner’s bank request was turned down. The charge sheet said that Lerner also tried to bribe Peres and former Labor Party Secretary Nissim Zvilli by offering the party free advertising on a Russian television station broadcast in Israel. The indictment said that both Peres and Zvilli refused the bribe.
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