Israeli Blogger Suspected of Harassing Witness in Netanyahu Associates' Corruption Affair

Complainant said independent journalist had come to former official's home pretending to be an intelligence agent, while lawyer decries 'silencing' investigation into so-called submarine affair

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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An installation outside Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem calling for an investigation into the 'submarine affair,' July 20, 2020.
An installation outside Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem calling for an investigation into the 'submarine affair,' July 20, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The Israel Police’s anti-corruption unit Lahav 433 has detained on Monday an independent journalist and blogger on suspicion of harassing a witness connected to the so-called submarines affair.

Lior Koplovich, known as Ishton, is suspected of harassing Michael Abadi-Boiangiu, the former accountant general at the Finance Ministry. 

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The unit investigators also arrested on Monday his domestic partner and confiscated computers and papers from his Tel Aviv home. He was taken for questioning at the National Economic Crimes Unit. They were both released lated on Monday.

Several weeks ago, Abadi-Boiangiu complained to the police that a man had come to her home in February, pretended to be a Mossad intelligence agent, showed her a fake article about the submarine affair allegedly penned by Haaretz-TheMarker reporters Gidi Weitz and Gur Megiddo, and asked her questions on the subject. Her complaint prompted police to conduct a clandestine investigation that led to Ishton’s arrest.

“The clandestine investigation indicated that the suspect prepared ahead of time and took steps to track down the complainant’s place of residence and other places where she stayed, using various means,” the police stated. “He also arrived at her home late in the evening and harassed her, while pretending to be an employee in an intelligence organization, in order to gain her trust and obtain what he wanted from her.”

Michal Abadi-BoiangiuCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

The journalist’s lawyer, Gonen Ben Itzhak, said “This is an arrest that is meant solely to silence an independent journalist.” He added: “According to the journalist, the investigation on which he was working in recent months, during which he collected documents and spoke to those involved, connects the submarine affair to the natural gas deal, and it is unconscionable that the police would undermine the journalistic immunity to which he is entitled, even if the blogger is not a part of the mainstream press.”

Ben Itzhak demanded that they return to Ishton the computers and papers confiscated from him. He added, “There is a serious suspicion that the search will cause harm to the petitioner’s sources and his journalistic work.” Ishton wrote an independent blog in which he covered investigations. In one instance, he revealed the military’s suicide statistics. He wrote a blog on the Haaretz website for several months in 2018.

The submarine affair deals with the contacts between Israel and the ThyssenKrupp shipbuilding company about five years ago. It centers around two transactions between Israel and the German corporation: one for the purchase of three submarines worth 1.5 billion euros, and the other for the purchase of missile boats meant to protect the offshore natural gas drilling rigs, worth 430 million euros. Investigators suspect that senior officers, civil servants and people close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took bribes in order to promote the deals.

Over the weekend, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth published the testimony of senior defense officials, to the effect that Netanyahu exerted pressure to purchase the boats from ThyssenKrupp, although there was no need for them. On Wednesday, the Yesh Atid-Telem Knesset faction is expected to bring up for a vote a draft bill to establish an investigative committee to probe the affair.

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