Police Suspect TV Exec Attacked Over Investigative Program

Tel Aviv events hall manager suspected of sexually assaulting undercover TV researcher.

A manager of a large events hall in the north of Tel Aviv was arrested Thursday on suspicion of sexually assaulting an undercover television researcher, as part of the probe into the attack on Channel 2 franchisee Keshet chief Avi Nir in a park last week.

Producer Haim Slutzky was also questioned by police yesterday about his connections with the owners of the events hall. Slutzky denied any connection with Nir's attack.

Nir was attacked and beaten with wooden boards while walking his dog in the Ramat Hahayal neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Police believe that the reason for Nir's attack is the investigative reporting carried out by a research team for the TV program "Shtulim" (Planted).

The researcher was hired for work in the events hall under an assumed name, and gathered information about the sanitation and the irregular behavior of its managers and workers, sources close to the investigation told Haaretz.

Among other things she found workers using spoiled food, recycling food after it had been served and other health hazards.

During the six-week research the hall's logistics manager Eli Vaknin allegedly started molesting the researcher. At one point he locked her in his office, leaned over her and tried to kiss her. She left immediately after the incident and the program team decided to wrap up the inquiry and pass the findings to the Health Ministry.

The following day Health Ministry inspectors raided the events hall, but to their surprise it was squeaky clean and many of the hazards listed by the reporter had disappeared.

The researcher said that when she arrived at work the morning after she had given the findings to the Health Ministry, she saw workers cleaning the place. They told her they expected a health inspectors' crackdown.

The police are now checking if someone in the Health Ministry had warned the events hall's managers about the planned inspection.

Haaretz has learned that Slutzky was at the events hall when the inspectors arrived there, and was overheard telling one of the program's people that he also knew about the planned raid.

After Nir's attack the police questioned everyone involved in the TV program and took the material related to the findings in the events hall. Several staff members of the investigative program said that after the raid on the hall they were threatened repeatedly. Three days after the raid, the researcher's parents' car tires were slashed.

The show's chief researcher, Orly Vilnai-Federbush, found decapitated pigeons on her car several times. Other members of the production team and in Keshet received anonymous threats demanding that they scrap the program.

Staff on the program told the detectives that Slutzky took upon himself to get the program scrapped and tried to pressure Nir and the producer to shelve it.