The Israel Police invested millions of shekels in a joint initiative with the company Fifth Dimension, once headed by former IDF chief of staff and head of the Hosen L’Yisrael party, Benny Gantz.
Haaretz has learned that the connection was made without a tender. The company has recently ceased operations and fired its staff.
Fifth Dimension offered a system of artificial intelligence for intelligence purposes intended for use by law enforcement agencies such as police and tax authorities.
“We are not doing something solely to make money,” Gantz told Globes in an interview. “There will be fewer criminals and fewer terrorists as a result. Very simple.”
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At its height the company employed about 100 people and was in contact with NSO Group in the past for a possible acquisition, but nothing came of it. NSO’s surveillance technology has been used by foreign agencies against journalists and human rights activists.
Alongside Gantz, former deputy Mossad head Ram Ben-Barak was the company’s president. Recently he joined the Yesh Atid party. The Israel Police linked up with Fifth Dimension without a tender in 2017 to experiment with use of its system at a cost of about 4 million shekels ($1.1 million). An exemption from a tender is only supposed to be issued under special circumstances.
Haaretz has learned that information about this issue has also reached the State Comptroller’s Office, where it was examined as part of a comprehensive report about police-business links, which is expected to be published in a few months.
The Israel Police said in response: “This was a pilot program that ended in 2017. The decisions for a tender exemption and the pilot were taken for the purpose of delaying the tender to a later stage.
The decision was made by the tenders committee, and approved by the Israel Police exemptions committee. The examinations were strict and thorough and conducted in an orderly fashion and similarly to all examinations conducted before the police conducts any business with suppliers under exemption.”
The director general of Fifth Dimension, former senior Mossad official Doron Cohen, told Haaretz: “Police chief Roni Alsheikh described the platform they installed as a ‘game changer.’ Today the police know more and I wouldn’t be surprised if they develop their own technology. I’m not the address to answer why a tender exemption was granted, but I can say that the police were very satisfied with the company’s services. I imagine there were other competitors and that we beat them.”
Cohen added, “The company was shut for only one reason – the sanctions the U.S. imposed on investor Viktor Vekselberg, where the company’s main market was U.S. law enforcement, who were imposing sanctions on the owners. That’s the only reason, unequivocally. The market was shut to us and other investors” didn’t want to get involved “although they were all enthusiastic about the technology. What took place was an unexpected scenario.”