AG Avihai Mandelblit on Thursday approved police interrogation of two MKs from the Balad faction of the Joint Arab List, Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi, as part of an investigation of financial irregularities and violations of the campaign finance law, Ha’aretz reported. Police are expected to invite both MKs to visit the Lahav 433 special investigations unit, according to confirmations by party lawyers and the Justice Ministry.
Police are following leads according to which Balad seniors have been systematically transferring millions of dollars into the party coffers illegally, committing a string of fraud violations in the process. Party sources have suggested police have recruited a state witness, a former party member who was aware of the financial irregularities and recently had confrontations with some of the suspects.
On Wednesday, the magistrate court in Haifa released six who had been detained as part of the investigation, including former Balad party Secretary General Awad Abdel-Fattah — despite police request that he be remanded to jail. According to Ha’aretz, Abdel-Fattah gave police his statement at the start of his interrogation and since then has been maintaining his right to silence. The court did extend the detention of party administrator Murad Haddad. Altogether police have detained 37 suspects as part of the investigation, but currently only Haddad remains behind bars.
Balad issued a statement saying the police investigation is part of a political witch hunt and an intimidation campaign against party officials.
Police suspect that millions of dollars which had been reported as donations from abroad were, in fact, laundered funds of Israeli Arab citizens, and that the suspects collaborated to conceal the sources of those funds, committing a long list of criminal violations.