Suspected Russian crime ring member charged

JERUSALEM — A suspected member of a Russian organized crime ring in Israel has been charged with fraud and blackmail, including an attempt to blackmail former Labor Party leader Shimon Peres.

Gregory Lerner, who has been in custody since his arrest in May, was charged Sunday by the state prosecutor with 14 counts of blackmail.

He also has been charged with defrauding banks and corporations in Israel, Russia and Europe of some $100 million.

A court hearing was set for later this week.

Lerner, who immigrated to Israel in 1989, also was investigated on suspicion of involvement in two murders committed in Russia.

But Sunday's indictment did not include any charges in connection with those murders.

Prosecutors said Lerner allegedly bribed former Labor Knesset member Gideon Saguy in order to have him support Lerner's plan to set up a bank in Israel.