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J'lem District Court convicts Shas MK Benizri on fraud charges

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    J lem District Court convicts Benizri on fraud charges Dan Izenberg, Gil Hoffman and Jpost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 1, 2008 www.jpost.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2008
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      J'lem District Court convicts Benizri on fraud charges

      Dan Izenberg, Gil Hoffman and Jpost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 1,

      Jerusalem District Court Judge Yaakov Tzaban on Tuesday found Shas MK and
      former cabinet minister Shlomo Benizri guilty of accepting bribes, of breech
      of faith and of interference in judicial procedures.

      The court also convicted Benizri's mentor, Rabbi Reuven Elbaz, of serving as
      an intermediary for bribery and conspiracy to commit a crime. The MK was
      found guilty of several counts including transferring NIS 200,000 and
      $30,000 to Elbaz's yeshiva and more than $10,000 later on.
      Benizri was also convicted of receiving gifts from foreign worker
      contractor, Moshe Sela, to finance a lawsuit that he filed, to purchase
      furniture and air conditioning for his entire apartment and other payments.

      Benizri was convicted of supplying Moshe Sela with information regarding
      several real estate bids prior to their publication and thereby exploited
      his position in order to further his own business interests.

      Moshe Sela was the owner of a human resources firm that supplied foreign
      workers from various countries.

      In exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars, Benizri influenced
      Government Employment Agency decisions that allocated the workers to
      contractors and also handed over privileged information to Sela regarding
      various bids.

      Following the announcement, MK Ran Cohen of Meretz called upon Benizri to
      suspend himself from activities in the Knesset saying that "it is totally
      unreasonable that an MK should participate in [Knesset] deliberations and in
      votes critical to the Israeli public" as he has been convicted of serious
      MK Moshe Sharoni (Pensioner's Party) echoed these sentiments and expressed
      his hope that "Rabbi Ovadia Yosef would instruct Benizri to resign."

      Benizri will be automatically suspended from the Knesset if the Jerusalem
      District Court sentences him to jail time or rules that the crimes for which
      he was convicted involved moral turpitude, according to a bill that passed
      in the Knesset last year.

      The court is expected to sentence him in upcoming weeks after announcing his
      conviction Tuesday. Until then Benizri will remain an MK, though because the
      Knesset begins a lengthy recess on Wednesday, it is likely that he has
      served his last day as an MK.

      According to the bill, which was sponsored by MKs Gilad Erdan (Likud) and
      Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), Benizri would return to the Knesset only in the
      unlikely scenario that he wins his final appeal.

      Benizri will be replaced in the Knesset by Rabbi Mazor Bayana from
      Beersheba, who would become the third Ethiopian immigrant to serve in the
      Knesset and the second one in the current Knesset, joining MK Shlomo Molla
      of Kadima.

      Bayana is the rabbi of 10,0000 Ethiopian immigrants in Beersheba. He studied
      at Yeshivat Porat Yosef, one of the most prestigious Sephardi yeshivot in
      Israel. Bayana made Aliyah to Israel via Sudan in 1982.

      Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas's spiritual mentor, has been outspoken in support
      of Ethiopian Jewry. He was one of the only haredi halachic authorities who
      ruled that Ethiopians were full-fledged Jews. Most insisted that members of
      the community convert.

      Matthew Wagner contributed to this report
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