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For over a decade, a senior member of an organized crime ring served as a police informant while continuing to commit serious crimes, including attacks on human life and other crimes stemming from his gang's violent conflicts with rival groups.

Information recently provided to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss indicates that the police violated their own rules for running informants in handling a top source from the world of organized crime. An unsuitable handler was chosen for the job and the police failed to supervise the informant properly.

Also, not only did they not gather their own intelligence on the informant, they ignored intelligence that nevertheless came their way about his illegal activities. Some of the material received by the comptroller alleges that the Jerusalem District Police's Central Unit not only turned a blind eye to the informant's activities, it effectively covered up for him.

A senior official at the State Prosecutor's Office said the incident should trigger disciplinary and perhaps even criminal proceedings against those responsible.

A secret police report obtained by Haaretz shows that over the years, the police received 470 reports of criminal activity committed by the informant, from 16 separate sources - including about 50 in 2008 alone. Despite this, the police did not conduct surveillance of his activities or reevaluate the advisability of using him as a source.

The manner in which the informant was handled by the police was investigated more than a year ago by the chief of the research department at national police headquarters, Commander Gadi Eshed. The investigation was prompted by a request from State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Maj. Gen. Yohanan Danino, then head of the police's investigation and intelligence division. But while Eshed's report was highly critical, people familiar with it described its recommendations as "minor."

The problem was first brought to light by Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel, who worked closely with the Jerusalem police and thus learned about the way the informant was being handled. He complained to Lador and Danino and asked them to order a comprehensive investigation of the issue.

Eshed's report cites Abarbanel's charge that officers in Jerusalem's Central Unit were essentially covering up the informant's criminal activity. Eshed described an atmosphere of "suspicion and distrust" between Central Unit officers and the district prosecutor's office, with the officers accusing the prosecutor's office of overzealousness against their informant, and the prosecutor's office accusing the police of effectively giving the informant immunity.

Eshed also noted that while the informant was run for about 10 years and supplied the police with some 500 items of information, he was never defined as a permanent source - and therefore was never subject to all the layers of supervision that definition as a permanent source would entail under police regulations.

Moreover, Eshed wrote, not only was an unsuitable officer chosen as the informant's handler, but once the decision was made to define the informant as a source rather than a target, this decision remained in force for years without the police ever revisiting it to see if it was still appropriate.

Eshed's main recommendations involved appointing an intelligence coordinator as the informant's handler, gathering intelligence about the informant's activities and conducting regular assessments of both his performance as a police source and his violations of the law.

Many of the flaws Eshed discovered - such as the appointment of an unsuitable handler and a failure to properly supervise the informant - were also cited by retired judge Vardi Zeiler in his report on police misconduct in a different case, a murder affair involving the Parinyan brothers. That report was published in early 2007, but the police evidently did nothing to correct the flaws Zeiler identified.

The State Comptroller's Office said it is now preparing to launch a comprehensive investigation into the way the police handle informants. "This issue is in our work plan for the coming year," said the office, which is now collecting information on the subject.

"Beyond that, especially given the great sensitivity of these matters, we cannot add any details," it said.

The Jerusalem District Police said that "the police have no intention of discussing this matter in the media."