In response to an appeal by Haaretz, the Supreme Court has lifted a gag order allowing publication of the fact that police have questioned pop singer Eyal Golan’s manager and business partner, Beni Peretz, about suspicions he had sex with an underage girl.
Peretz was summoned for questioning under caution, which meant he might have beene accused of a crime, in December 2013, a month after a girl of 17 testified that Golan’s father, Dani Biton, had sent her to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Tel Aviv, where Peretz lives, for her to meet with Golan.
Despite the ban, Peretz was interviewed frequently about girls he said “did not exist; it’s all invented by the media.” In later interviews he said the girls who testified were liars.
Peretz was summoned once for questioning. Prosecutors shut the case a few months later for lack of evidence.
Haaretz published a report in September exposing serious failures in the investigation, raising many questions about the motivation of law enforcement officials to properly investigate the case.
In August Haaretz, includnig former correspondent, Revital Hovel, filed a request to release for publication the suspicions against Peretz.
Peretz, who also manages other leading singers and is on the board of directors and a shareholder in a public housing company, vigorously opposed lifting the ban.
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An underage girl had testified that after Biton spoke on the phone in her presence to someone, he told her Golan was with Peretz in a suite at the Crowne Plaza. She told the police that when she went to the suite, Golan was not there, but Peretz was. “At first I sat in the living room and smoked a cigarette. Then I asked him where Eyal was and he said he wasn’t there. Then he went into the room and called me. He was naked and he said one sentence to me: ‘I heard you’re a champion.’”
The girl told the police that Peretz “began, and I wanted to end it as quickly as possible and go home.” When asked why she didn’t leave when she realized Golan was not there, she said: “Where would I go? Biton had gone, I had no money for a taxi or a bus.” She told the police that Peretz gave her 50 shekels ($14) for a taxi.
She only reported the act when she was questioned for the third time. The police detective who questioned her asked her whether she was afraid of Peretz. She replied that “it’s not that he dangerous or something, but he’s outside and everyone knows who gave testimony.”
The teenager told police that Peretz thought she was 18, because that is what Biton had told him, which is why the suspicion against Peretz was for causing a person to engage in prostitution, mediated by Biton.
When Peretz was interrogated, six days after the incident, he admitted to having sex with the girl, and based on his testimony, Biton was charged with a number of serious crimes. However, Peretz said that teenager had come to him of her own free will, and that Biton had not been a go-between.
In hearings over Haaretz and Hovel’s requests to lift the publication ban, Peretz called himself a “former suspect” whose case had been closed, and told the court that publication of the suspicions would cause him serious damage. “That girl, and lots of other girls, it doesn’t matter if they lied…my only sin was to sleep with a girl who is 18.”
The prosecutor told the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court that the case had been closed due to evidentiary difficulties. She also said that the teen had been hospitalized in the Abarbanel Psychiatric Hospital and her mental state was poor.
In September, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ruled that Peretz’s part in the affair could be made public. The ruling was confirmed by the Tel Aviv District Court in October, which said: This is a very serious affair, involving the exploitation of young girls who are fans of a popular singer, for sexual acts with those close to him, among others, his father.”
Peretz appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s verdict.
Peretz had argued that he was not a public figure, and so the suspicions should not be made public, but justices Daphne Barak-Erez, David Mintz and Ofer Grosskopf ruled that “even a person who is not an elected official can be considered a ‘public figure,” and this depends, among other things…and his choice to place himself in the limelight…” The justices also said and have found in the past that it was in the public’s interest to allow the publication of suspicions about sexual offenses.
Golan’s company, Liam Productions, in which Peretz is a partner, said: “Beni Peretz acts and has always acted only according to the law, which has been determined by Tel Aviv district prosecutors, who decided to close the case. Seven years ago, Peretz was summoned for only half an hour of questioning, and we stress that no complaint was ever filed against him.”