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Israel’s interior minister grilled in corruption inquiry

JERUSALEM — Israel’s interior minister and his wife were reportedly among 16 people who were interrogated by Israel police Monday in a major corruption inquiry.

Police said 16 people were taken in for questioning in the investigation into tax evasion and real estate crimes.

Israeli media reported that Aryeh Deri and his wife were questioned by the police’s high-profile crimes unit for at least 10 hours over suspected wrongdoing.

Deri was previously sentenced to three years in prison for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in 2000 during his previous stint as interior minister in the 1990s. He served 22 months in prison, but made a political comeback and retook the reins of the religious Shas party in 2013.

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Details of the case are under a police gag order.

Public officials were among 14 other people who were detained Monday in connection with the ongoing investigation, according to local media.

Among those detained were Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor Moshe Leon and Ariel Mashaal, director general of the Ministry for Development in the Negev. They were expected to be released later in the day.

The investigation of Deri and his wife reportedly involves a series of real estate dealings in which the minister is suspected of illegally transferring a five-room Jerusalem apartment to his brother, attorney Shlomo Deri.

Police are also reportedly looking into how the Deri family built a vacation villa in the Upper Galilee village of Kfar Hoshen.

Investigators are scrutinizing a grant from the Israeli Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, which Deri formerly ran. The money was allegedly going to be provided to an organization managed by Yaffa Deri until it was halted by ministry officials.

Deri was named interior minister in 2016, and resigned from the Knesset to allow Michael Malchieli to take his seat.

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