Plans to indict former Ashdod Port union chief Alon Hassan for fraud and other charges have been delayed in the wake of the arrest of Hassan’s former lawyer, Ronel Fisher.
- Police corruption unit takes over high-profile bribery investigation
- Attorney Ronel Fisher and police officer remanded for alleged bribery
- Union boss banned from doing business with Ashdod Port asks for leniency
- Ashdod Port says customers pressured to use Hassan-linked firms
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan decided two months ago to charge Hassan with fraud, breach of trust and money laundering. Initially police wanted bribery to be included in the charge sheet as well. But the investigation of Fisher — who is suspected of passing along information from police to criminal suspects regarding their cases in exchange for money, and paying police to leak that information — has complicated the case against Hassan. The former labor union kingpin — who was allegedly one of those briefed by Fisher about a police probe against him — now claims the investigation against him was biased.
The police team that examined alleged corruption in the Ashdod Port met with Nitzan and other prosecutors about two months ago to assess the evidence against Hassan. Among the issues discussed was whether Hassan’s transfer of his rights to his business partner, Yaniv Balter, could be seen as bribing a public official. This is because the company, Dana Logistics, owned by Balter, was given various benefits and reductions in its transactions with the Ashdod Port. Hassan himself was suspected of attending some of the meetings between Dana officials and port clients.
The police and attorneys ultimately decided to indict Hassan for bribery as well, subject to a hearing, but the prosecution decided to remove the charge about receiving assets achieved in criminal ways.
The prosecution said in February that Hassan would be given a hearing in three weeks. In March the prosecution told the Be’er Sheva Regional Labor Court, during a debate about Hassan’s possible return to work at the port, that it would hold a hearing for him and the other suspects in the case before indicting them. But to date no hearing has been held.
At the end of April, the Justice Ministry’s police investigation department hacked into Fisher’s cell phone, which led to new information about the goings on between Hassan and Fisher, as well as several additional arrests.
Hassan subsequently complained to the police investigation department that Fisher had demanded $150,000 for closing some of the cases against him, which had been opened by the police corruption unit, Lahav 433. Hassan agreed to cooperate with the police and record Fisher when he met him to hand over the money.
Presumably the new details about Fisher and Hassan require a reexamination of the indictment draft against Hassan. However, the people involved in the case are expected to argue that this has far–reaching implications on the investigation.
That’s because former police superintendent Eran Malka — who is suspected of giving Fisher details of investigations in exchange for payment from those being investigated — was the officer who ran the probe into alleged corruption at the Ashdod Port. Those being investigated may now claim ulterior motives on the part of those running the investigation.
In recent weeks Hassan has given media interviews in which he said the police investigation against him was “tainted” with ulterior motives that allegedly influenced its results.
At the same time Hassan admitted that he had been briefed in real time about the covert investigation against him.
The Southern District Prosecutor’s Office said “the case has been examined thoroughly and the final decision is expected to be made soon.”