Who said Kobi Alexander is really hiding out in Sri Lanka?
Since Thursday, Moshe Buller, the private detective who disclosed how he located former Comverse CEO Kobi Alexander, who is currently on the run from the FBI, has become a real news item and has been interviewed by all the mass media. Nevertheless, the different versions of the story that he gave interviewers raise a number of questions.
The story about Sri Lanka has become the talk of the town even among private detectives in Israel, where some of Buller's colleagues doubt his tale of international intrigue, as it joins the publication of stories about other big international affairs in which Buller says he took part.
Tzali Peleg, chairman of the Israeli Bureau of Private Investigators, is offering a NIS 10,000 reward from his own pocket to anyone who presents him with unequivocal evidence of the reliability of the story of Alexander's whereabouts.
"Without taking a decisive stand on the credibility of the story," said Peleg on Sunday, "in light of Buller's involvement in similar high-profile affairs in the past, I want to see real evidence and am even willing to pay for it."
Last Thursday, the Maariv daily published the first news item that said Alexander had been located in Sri Lanka, in the coastal town of Negombo, north of the capital, Colombo. Buller told Maariv that Alexander had been found by means of a brief Internet conversation, initiated in Colombo. The PI related a similar version of his tale to Channel 2 on Thursday evening.
The question that remains, however, is why would Alexander call a house in Caesarea when no one has been there for several weeks already. This question becomes even more relevant when one considers what Buller told Rafi Reshef of Channel 10 - that Alexander is in Sri Lanka with his family.
Buller made additional claims to Reshef that raise further questions: Reshef asked Buller if he had seen Alexander with his own eyes, and Buller replied: "I saw him sound asleep."
A slightly different version, however, was relayed to Globes and TheMarker: "I arrived at Alexander's villa in the early morning hours," Buller reported. "I saw him at 3 A.M. He was standing up, wearing a shirt with a Timberland logo, typing away at his laptop computer. His hair was longer than in the newspaper photos and he was wearing different glasses, but it was him."
Buller also informed Reshef that he figured Alexander's lawyer was looking out for him and that "in a few days, he will be in a safe place."
In the interview with Channel 2, however, Buller said, "I believe he is in Europe and will pop up within the next 48 hours."
Buller offered a different tidbit to Globes - that, "the FBI knows where he is and is negotiating his extradition," and told the Ynet Web site, "I think the FBI has closed a deal to bring Alexander in."
Buller told the press that after he saw Alexander he "retreated to Colombo, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Negombo."
Negombo, however, is just 73 kilometers from Colombo, such that even if the road was in poor condition, one would still have to drive very slowly for it to take two and a half hours to cover such a short distance.
Buller may have seen Alexander wearing a shirt, asleep or awake, with or without glasses, but why would Alexander hide in a country that has an extradition treaty with the United States, and in a coastal area frequented by tourists?
Alexander apparently has German citizenship, and Germany does not extradite its citizens to the U.S. Would it not have been better to hide there?
In addition, on Saturday, the Newsday.com Web site published a story indicating that detectives associated with the Alexander affair doubt that he is in Sri Lanka. Those sources noted that they are following a few leads, none of which point to Sri Lanka. The article quoted attorney Robert Morvillo, who said that there were no negotiations underway with Alexander and that he did not know where he was.
Buller was not available for comment.