Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Minister Aryeh Deri and his wife Yaffa seen leaving their home in Jerusalem, May 29, 2017.

Interior Minister, Development of the Negev and the Galilee Minister, and Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri was interrogated on Monday for more than 11 hours in the office of police major crimes unit Lahav 433 on suspicion of money laundering, fraud, and breach of trust. Fourteen associates of Aryeh and Yaffa Deri were detained for questioning, including Jerusalem Council Member Moshe Leon and the Director General of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, Ariel Mashal.

Police confiscated 350 files in 70 cases with documents from the past few years of the Mifalot Simcha association, which is run by Yaffa Deri.

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Aryeh Deri was convicted in 1999 of taking $155,000 in bribes while serving as Interior Minister, and was given a three-year jail sentence in 2000. He was released on good behavior in 2002 after serving 22 months. He returned to political life in the 21st Century (2013), and managed to push out his replacement, then MK Eli Yishai. Now it appears that Yishai might be called to serve party and country once again.

Over the past few months, police have collected thousands of documents related to Yaffa Deri’s association, which may shed light on the suspicions against the couple, including the question of whether the fundraising and use of the association were generated through criminal and tax violations.

The Deri association was founded 18 years ago and operates a network of educational institutions with an estimated 800 female students. The network, with a budget of more than $2.8 million, includes the Margalit High School, where 240 girls study for a full matriculation certificate, and the Shevilei Beit Ya’akov seminar, where 400 girls board and study in a variety of tracks, such as bookkeeping and secretarial services.

Yaffa Deri founded the association, which she her life’s work, and employs three of her daughters. “Anyone who wants to learn, we are here for her,” she said in a video on the network’s website. “I believe that many girls were weak [students] because they simply did not have the opportunities and encountered difficulties. So here there’s a place that gives them a second chance and the tools for success.”

At the end of last year, according to Walla, Mifalot Simcha applied for assistance to the tune of $160,000 from the Interior Ministry which is headed by her husband. Her request was one of dozens of applications submitted to the ministry, but also among the few that were approved. Then a staffer raised concerns that this might be seen as a conflict of interests and blocked the allocation of the funds. This was not the first time Yaffa Deri’s organization has received state funding. Each year, Mifalot Simcha receives millions of shekels, mainly from the Ministry of Education. Yaffa Deri raises the rest of her budget from generous donors, including David Schlaff, son of Jewish billionaire Martin Schlaff; Udi Angel, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the XT Holdings and XT Investments; Bank Leumi; and the Tadiran corporation.

Minister Deri issued a statement saying he has “full confidence in the law enforcement system,” adding, “I call upon the public to be patient and respect the investigation.”

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