Police Overlooked Kidnap Victim's Criminal Past

In a dramatic news conference last week, Sharon district police revealed a serious kidnapping case: The victim, a new immigrant from Germany, had been held for two weeks and released only after his father paid a ransom.

An investigation into the case ended yesterday with the indictment of two suspects in Raphael Angel's kidnapping.

However, throughout this "extensive" investigation, the police never looked into the victim's past. Had they checked, they would have found that Angel is under criminal investigation in Berlin, and an arrest warrant was issued in 2005 for his involvement in fraud.

"The suspects' claim of a business dispute has been investigated and refuted entirely," Sharon district deputy police chief Morris Harush stated. Only after Haaretz's questions did the Israeli police ask German police about Angel. The new details do not reduce the severity of the kidnapping, but they do indicate faulty police work that did not reveal the tie between Angel and his abductors.

Angel, 30, told the media as well as Sharon district detectives that he was a new immigrant kidnapped because his wealth was known. However, Haaretz has obtained documents indicating the money in his bank accounts apparently originate from a major sting and the theft of hundreds of thousands of euros.

A simple Web search reveals Raphael Angel's name in connection with the sting operation, as well as the names of former associate Ron Greenbaum, and others. It also reveals the involvement in the fraud of Angel's father Michael Angel, who spoke to the media last week and recounted his son's kidnapping and the payment of the $320,000 ransom.

Allegedly, Raphael Angel, Greenbaum and others were the owners of Berlin company Sellcom PC, which sold cheap computer equipment. However, none of the company's nearly 1,000 customers ever received the equipment.

Shortly after publication of the sales and collection of payment, the company suddenly closed in March 2005, at which point it became evident Angel had fled to Israel with at least 200,000 euros, according to the German arrest warrant.

Haaretz has obtained a copy of Michael Angel's testimony to the Berlin police, in which he denied any connection to the affair after a detective accused him of holding some of the stolen money. However, Michael Angel apparently accompanied his son to Israel two years ago, followed shortly by Greenbaum, seeking what he claimed was his share from the pair's legitimate dealings.

Under questioning by Israeli police, Angel said he was kidnapped by Greenbaum's associates because Greenbaum knew he had money.

Michael Angel rejected the charges against him and his son, and threatened this reporter's life. He added that he had shown documents to Israeli police proving he and his son have no part in the fraud, did not own the company at the time, and that Greenbaum was framing them. The documents were not translated from German, however.

A Sharon district spokesman the police had asked Interpol for information on Angel.