Israel FM resigns after being charged with fraud, breach of trust

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has announced his resignation a day after being charged with fraud and breach of trust.

Lieberman has also resigned as deputy prime minister. His resignation comes five weeks ahead of Israel’s general election.

“I have decided to resign my post as foreign minister and deputy prime minister and…also to remove my [parliamentary] immunity forthwith so I can end this matter quickly, without delay, and clear my name absolutely,” Lieberman said in an emailed statement on Friday.

Israel’s Justice Ministry on Thursday dropped the more serious allegations against Lieberman, including money laundering and bribery, and charged him with lesser offences of fraud and breach of trust over his efforts to promote an Israeli diplomat who had leaked him confidential information about a police probe into his activities.

Lieberman, however, has said he would fight the charges and that he hoped to settle the case before the January 22 election, allowing him to stand as a candidate.

“I have taken this decision from the conviction that the…[Israelis] will be able to go to the polls after this problem has been resolved,” said Lieberman, who is the leader of the Yisrael Beitenu Party, the second largest party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition government.

“That means the judiciary must give its verdict before the elections,” he said, adding, “I will then be able to serve….”

Lieberman has faced several investigations since 1996 on a number of fraud and corruption allegations but has never been charged.

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