Israel Police’s elite crime-fighting unit Lahav 433 is facing a busy week, particularly in its division for investigation of corruption.
- Israeli minister Silvan Shalom accused of sex offense
- A last look at Israel's usual suspects
- All hail Netanyahu, the last man standing
- Israel Police recommend closing sexual harassment case against minister
- Police told to wrap up IDF forgery probe by end of May
The head of the Investigations and Intelligence Branch, Commander Meni Yitzhaki, and the head of the National Fraud Investigations Branch, Brigadier Ephraim Bracha assessed the situation last week. In the coming days, they are expecting to confront a former prime minister, a former chief of staff, a current cabinet minister and some of the most prominent lawyers in the country.
The affair involving former Prime Minister Olmert and his bureau chief Shula Zaken is shifting into high gear at these units, with the expected questioning of Olmert. In the course of this investigation, Olmert will be confronted with information Zaken gave investigators and the State Prosecutor’s Office, relating to the financing of her legal expenses in exchange for her silence. Olmert is expected to be investigated with regard to the possibility that he committed obstruction of justice by preventing Zaken’s testimony in the Holyland affair, RishonTours and Talansky affairs, three trials at the Jerusalem District Court in which he was a defendant. The latter two are now at the appeals stage before the Supreme Court.
Olmert is expected to be questioned more than once, and the question remains whether he will be allowed to return home in between, or be detained or placed under house arrest, out of concern for further obstruction of justice.
Olmert’s and Zaken’s lawyers are also expected to make an appearance at police investigation rooms, where they will be asked if they deliberately acted to benefit Olmert at Zaken’s expense, and whether her defense was financed in exchange for her silence at those trials. Further testimony will be collected this week from businessman Alfred Akirov, who will be asked if he supplied the cash for her defense.
The so-called Harpaz affair involving former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, suspected of collecting defamatory material relating to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, will also be upgraded this week. Ashkenazi’s former aide Col. (res.) Erez Wiener and former IDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu, as well as Boaz Harpaz and other senior Defense Ministry officials have already been questioned.
The police are now preparing to summon the heroes of this affair, Ashkenazi and Barak, whose status under questioning is unclear. Most of the questions so far have related to material that was transferred from the defense ministry to Ashkenazi without the minister’s knowledge. Ashkenazi allegedly used these to embarrass Barak and his candidates for the subsequent chief of staff. Ashkenazi’s wife Ronit may also be summoned by police.
The Silvan Shalom affair, which involves alleged sexual harassment, will also be decided on by police and state prosecutors this week. The police now have several names of women who may have been harassed by Shalom. However, no complaint has been filed, which would enable them to launch an investigation. One woman gave evidence but is unwilling to file a complaint, although she claims her statement to the police was truthful. She does not intend to bring this to court at this stage. The police are still trying to establish whether she will cooperate.
If she or other women whose names police possess do not come forward, the case will be closed.
These are three affairs which are high on the public agenda, but investigators at Lahav 433 know that the criminal world has not been on vacation. Most of their work deals with fighting organized crime. Even though Zaken and Shalom were investigated last week, what really interests Commander Meni Yitzhaki more than anything else is whether there will be a successful conclusion to the months-long police investigation into the Jarushi crime family, in which some of its senior members were caught importing drugs into Israel.