Peru Extradites Israeli Ex-judge Wanted for Bribery

Dan Cohen, a former judge and wanted fugitive, is on his way to Israel seven and a half years after he fled amid suspicions of accepting millions of dollars in bribes.

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Seven and a half years after fleeing Israel for Peru, former Israeli judge Dan Cohen – suspected of receiving millions of dollars in bribes – is expected to return. Haaretz has learned that last weekend, Peruvian authorities decided to extradite him.

In recent months, the State Prosecutor’s Office has been conducting advanced negotiations with Cohen’s lawyers regarding the fugitive’s return to Israel, confessing to receiving bribes worth millions of shekels, and serving up to four years behind bars.

Just days before being arrested, Cohen assumed he would be spending Passover in Lima with his family, who planned to make a special trip there to see him. He told family and friends on the telephone that he was sure it would take several more weeks to conclude negotiations. “There’s no way they will turn me in,” he said confidently to a friend at the start of the week, unaware of the dramatic developments that were about to transpire. Now, after having been turned in, Cohen has lost much of the power he had in trying to reach plea bargain from across the ocean.

In August 2005, Cohen, who is now 71, went to Ben Gurion International Airport, boarded a plane to Peru and never came back. He is an elite prosecutor, a former Be’er Sheva district judge and a former member of the board of directors of the Israel Electric Corporation. He is accused of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes, as well as obstruction of justice for fleeing the country. He allegedly pocketed some $2.8 million and more than 1 million euro for exerting his influence on the Israel Electric Corporation on behalf of the German conglomerate Siemens and the Israeli Rogozin Industries on three separate occasions.

By fleeing to Peru, Cohen proved his legal shrewdness, as the two countries are not signed onto an extradition agreement. This is how one of the biggest players in one of Israel’s biggest bribery schemes ever has managed to get away and remain at large.

For years, Israel invested great efforts in trying to extradite the former judge. From time to time, senior representatives of the State Prosecutor’s Office were sent to try and convince the Peruvians to help track Cohen down. The Israeli Embassy in Peru also contributed to the efforts, including former Ambassador Walid Mansour, a close friend of the fugitive judge.

In August 2009, Cohen finished a Spanish class he was taking at the Catholic University in Lima and walked to a nearby café. He was arrested at the entrance by two Interpol officials who notified him that he was under arrest and that Israel was demanding his extradition. The Supreme Court in Lima approved Israel’s request, although Cohen decided to fight it. He sat in a Peruvian jail for three months and spent another year and a half under house arrest, while his Peruvian attorneys submitted appeals against the decision to extradite him.

At the end of a rare and nerve-racking process, the courts approved the extradition process. But without any explanation, then-president of Peru Alan Garcia decided to repeal the decision and let him stay in Peru. Many believe this was due to his close relationship between Israeli tycoon Baruch Ivcher, who is considered one of South America’s most powerful people, and the Peruvian president.

A few months after the Peruvian president saved Cohen from extradition in 2011, his attorneys turned to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and requested to begin negotiations that would ensure Cohen’s return to Israel, however, Lador did not want to hear it. “The State Prosecutor’s Office seems me as a combination between Mengele and Eichmann,” Cohen once said to one of his Israeli friends. Cohen managed to get Attorney Ram Caspi to convince Lador that this time, it was serious, and at the end of negotiations, Cohen would sit in an Israeli jail.

Since then, negotiations began between Cohen’s attorney Eitan Maoz and attorney Liat Ben Ari, which are expected to conclude soon.

Israeli former judge Dan Cohen, center, being escorted by police after being interrogated at the Peruvian Attorney in Lima August 25, 2009.Credit: Reuters / Haaretz Archive

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