Questioned in court yesterday about the thundering collapse of a group of companies he led, former top cop Rafi Peled continued to proclaim innocence: He hadn’t known that money was being siphoned out of the group of companies until the police asked him about it, he claimed yesterday.

Peled, who chaired the Israel Electric Corporation after retiring as police commissioner, stands accused of fraud together with other former powers at the Peled-Givony group: Arie Givony ‏(hence the name “Peled-Givony”‏), Tal Jaegerman and David Heby. The four were indicted in June 2003.

The Peled-Givony group took out huge loans that it couldn’t return to buy several publicly traded companies in 2000 and 2001, then collapsed in August 2002, leaving it NIS 800 million in debt. Police suspect the defendants of siphoning tens of millions of shekels from the public companies. The defendants deny the allegation.

Peled said yesterday he knew money was being transferred between group companies, but didn’t know it was being taken out of the group.