Police yesterday arrested two private investigators, Rafi Pridan and Aviv Mor, on suspicion of illegally wiretapping several people in an effort to gather information about Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and businessman Michael Chernoy.
They also arrested right-wing extremist Avigdor Eskin on suspicion of serving as a liaison between the private eyes and their employer.
Police believe the employer is a business rival of Chernoy who has been waging a public campaign against him. A police source said the dozens of pages of material found at the suspects' homes and offices indicate that Chernoy was the target of their probe; only a small part of the material relates to his ties to Lieberman.
The probe began two weeks ago in response to a complaint from Lieberman, who said that private information about himself and Chernoy had recently appeared online and other places, and he suspected that it had been obtained by illegitimate means from people who knew both men. It was Lieberman who suggested Chernoy's business rival as the possible culprit.
Based on other information received, police also investigated suspicions that Kadima MKs were involved. However, this line of inquiry has so far yielded no results.
At a hearing in the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court yesterday, police said that there could be additional wiretaps that they do not yet know about, possibly including some overseas. All the wiretaps discovered so far are in Israel.
The court remanded Pridan and Mor for four days and Eskin for five days.
The confiscated material, which includes Internet downloads, press clippings and reports from agents who tailed Chernoy and other people, details Chernoy's businesses, his holding companies worldwide, his ties to other businessmen from the former Soviet Union, his personal and business disputes and his alleged ties to criminals both in Israel and abroad. It also includes information about an unflattering book on him written by a Russian journalist, which is due out soon in Russia.
With regard to Lieberman, the documents detail how he and Chernoy first met, what meetings they held and their alleged business ties. The material includes an investigative report from Haaretz Magazine that discussed suspicions that in May 2001, three months after Lieberman was appointed infrastructure minister in Ariel Sharon's government, a company owned by Chernoy deposited $500,000 in a Cyprus bank account from which hundreds of thousands of shekels were later transferred to Lieberman's associates.
According to police sources, the confiscated documents also include several other grave but unproven allegations about Chernoy's ties with Lieberman.
Police investigated these ties five years ago, but nothing came of this probe.
Other prominent Israeli businessmen mentioned in the documents include Arcadi Gaydamak and David Appel.
The material also details the Interior Ministry's failed efforts to strip Chernoy of his citizenship; his involvement in Gad Zeevi's purchase of Bezeq, for which both men are currently on trial; and investigations against him in Switzerland, Russia and the United States.
In June, Andrei Kalitin, the journalist who wrote the book on Chernoy, was lightly wounded in an apparent assassination attempt, which he attributed to his work on the book.
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