Israeli Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi resigned Tuesday after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to open a criminal investigation against him.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked Hanegbi to continue serving as a minister without portfolio, and will decide Wednesday on his replacement.

Mazuz made his announcement Tuesday, demanding that Hanegbi suspend himself or resign.

Hanegbi immediately met with Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon told him, ‘I am very fond of you, and have a lot of respect for you,’

Last week, the State Comptroller’s Report branded Hanegbi for massive improper and political appointments during his term as environment minister in 2001-2003.

Based on the report findings, Mazuz instructed the police to conduct a criminal investigation against Shmuel Hershkowitz, the current and former director-general of ministries that Hanegbi headed.

Mazuz’s demanded the immediate suspension of Hanegbi, the minister in charge of the police, to resolve the conflict of interest.

Following January 2003 elections, Sharon appointed Hanegbi as Public Security Minister against the advice then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein.

Mazuz, after consultations with his legal team, decided that evidence revealed in the State Comptroller’s Report was sufficient for opening an investigation.

Major General Moshe Mizrahi, the head of the police investigation unit, will be in charge of the inquiry in Hanegbi’s case.

According to Mazuz, while serving as the minister of environment, Hanegbi appointed scores of Likud central committee members and their relatives to various ministerial positions improperly.

Some of the positions were even fictitious. As well, Hangebi’s close political allies won ministry tenders for purchasing services in violation of state tender regulations.

‘Hanegbi trampled the law and the rules of proper conduct blatantly. He politicized the public service, and used public resources to promote his personal political interests.’ Mazuz said.