PIs Accused of Illegally Tapping Oligarch's Phone

Two private investigators charged with illegally wiretapping the phone line of oligarch Michael Chernoy.

Two private investigators were charged on Sunday at Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court with illegally wiretapping the phone line of oligarch Michael Chernoy.

The first of the accused, Rafi Pridan, had his investigative license withdrawn several years ago, in another wiretapping affair; he is also being charged with investigating without a license.

His co-defendant, Maxim Gurevich, has been charged in a separate case involving the abduction of a Jerusalem businesswoman last April.

According to the charges, the two PIs were hired by right-wing extremist Avigdor Eskin, on the instruction of Alexei Drubshenko, the CEO of a company held by one of Chernoy's business rivals. The indictment does not mention that businessman as ordering the wiretapping.

Haaretz has learned that Eskin will turn state's evidence against Pridan and Gurevich, and will be indicted separately at a later stage.

According to the indictment, Drubshenko approached Eskin in 2007, looking to damage Chernoy's standing through information that Eskin would collect. Drubshenko asked Eskin to locate an Israeli investigation office that would gather information on Chernoy and used it in a public relations offensive against him.

Eskin then approached private investigator Aviv Mor, who as part of a plea bargain was convicted in January for his role in the affair. Mor contacted Pridan, and the two met with Eskin and Drubshenko in Moscow several times, agreeing to spy on Chernoy and his associates, including his personal secretary. The investigators conducted surveillance of Chernoy and his house, and wiretapped his phone and that of his secretary.

In his statement to the court during Mor's trial earlier this year, Chernoy claimed he had filed a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against a rival businessman in Britain, and that "the uncovering of said wiretapping by the Israel Police reveal a harsh picture of grave and illicit acts against me."

Pridan's attorney, Yaron Barzilay, said in a statement: "Even though the state promised this would be completed in a matter of days, it took three years to serve an indictment against my client, and this is a shame. What I have to say - and there is plenty - I will say in court."