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Police Commissioner David Cohen says "government corruption is the greatest strategic threat to Israel. We have found in recent years that government corruption has spread everywhere."

In his first interview since entering office in May 2007, Cohen speaks of his feelings when the Talansky portfolio - a case that led to the police recommendation to indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - was laid on his desk at the beginning of the year.

"This time it wasn't some pile of documents from the state comptroller, which you have to sort through with paper and pencil. This time it was a living, breathing person who gave evidence .... It is a living case. To the best of my knowledge, we did not have a living case of this kind before.

"There was a kind of feeling of 'How could something like this happen?' I remember the same shock and the same jolt in the story of [former finance minister Avraham] Hirchson. I saw there how easy it is for a finance minister to pocket hundreds of thousands of shekels without batting an eyelid. The whole team was in shock."

Cohen is concerned over the penetration of criminal elements into state institutions and local government.

"They have penetrated local governments and planning and building committees, at both the municipal and district levels; they have penetrated the legitimate economy, particularly in the fuel sector and the area of public tenders. One crime organization, which we cracked three years ago, owned dozens of companies on the stock exchange."

Commenting on the verbal attacks by ministers Daniel Friedmann and Haim Ramon on the police, Cohen says: "The justice minister cannot attack the police. [He] can talk to the commissioner or call in the head of the Investigations Branch. But for the minister to say such things publicly is arrant irresponsibility. That is professional irresponsibility, national irresponsibility and even personal irresponsibility."