Former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu) on Sunday morning arrived in Hermon Prison in lower Galilee, to begin serving 15 months behind bars, as part of a plea bargain, for fraud and breach of trust. When he reached the prison gates, the former minister said: “Happy holiday,” then asked the reporters on hand, “Did you come to expel the darkness?” (a reference to a popular children’s Hanukkah song).
According to his indictment, as Minister of Tourism, Misezhnikov transferred one million shekel ($285,000) to the National Students Union for a festival it conducted in Eilat, which was produced by his intimate acquaintance Julia Roth.
The affair and the embezzlement were exposed by Channel 10 News.
“After three years of hell, I decided to end it,” Misezhnikov said in an interview to Channel 2 News ahead of his entering prison. “I preferred to say, ‘I committed an offense, it was a slip, and I have to pay the price.’ As soon as I did, I was relieved, because suddenly I saw an ending.”
Misezhnikov continued to argue, though, that his girlfriend got the job because she was good at it, not because she was his girlfriend. “There’s no connection between the million shekels for the festival and the fact that I wanted to employ a professional, who, by all accounts, did a great job.”
The former Tourism Minister told Channel 2 News that Police had tried to flip him to become state witness against his party boss, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has been dodging corruption charges for decades. “I have only contempt for people who try to save themselves at the expense of others, instead of taking responsibility for their actions,” he boasted.