Israel to Charge Lieberman Party Officials in Graft Probe

Israel to Charge Lieberman Party Officials in Graft ProbeIsrael to Charge Lieberman Party Officials in Graft Probe

Israel plans to charge officials from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's party in a major corruption probe, with one also accused of drug offences, the attorney general said.

The charges are linked to what has been called "one of the largest public corruption investigations in Israel", involving alleged crimes committed between 2009 and 2014.

Lieberman, who joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in May, is not among the 16 people facing charges, AFP reported.

His hardline nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party holds five seats in Israel's 120-seat parliament.

Former deputy interior minister and Yisrael Beitenu secretary-general, Faina Kirshenbaum, along with former tourism minister, Stas Misezhnikov, are to be charged with bribery, fraud and tax offences, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's office said in a statement.

Misezhnikov is also facing charges of possessing cocaine in Israel and abroad, and using it on various occasions in his capacity as minister, according to the statement released late on Monday.

Others named include advisors, lobbyists and local government officials.

In December 2014, police arrested more than two dozen current and former officials as part of the investigation.

The arrests came just three months before Israel's 2015 general elections.

Lieberman, who in 2014 accused authorities of trying to meddle in the elections by probing and arresting members of his party, had no comment on the latest announcement.