The Bottom Line / Zeiler's Costly Mistake: Criminals Strike It Rich

"As we completed this report, we received the news of the plea bargain in the court case in which Sharon and Oded Parinyan were accused of murder - that the charge had been reduced to conspiracy to commit a crime, and that they would be sentenced to five years in prison. With the approval of this plea bargain and the conclusion of the preparation of this report, the curtain will fall on this theater of the absurd." These are the concluding words of the Zeiler Commission's report on the affair of the murder of Pinhas Buhbut and Tzahi Ben-Or.

"Epilogue: Sorrowful Reflections," is the title chosen by the commission for the closing chapter of the report, which deals with the failings of the Israel Police and led to the ousting of Commissioner Moshe Karadi. The failure of the police and the State Prosecutor's Office to conclude this affair with at least the conviction of the main suspects, despite the considerable evidence collected, was the final, tragic chapter to this play, which was absurd from start to finish. The absurdity, however, did not end there.

It is absurd that action could have been taken against the Parinyan brothers; that the crime organization they head could have been dismantled; and that the police held all the evidence they needed - it was quoted extensively in the Zeiler report. Neither the police nor the State Prosecutor's Office looked into this possibility, however, and unfortunately, neither did the Zeiler Commission.

The plea bargain with the Parinyan brothers was defined as absurd by the Zeiler Commission, as it did not meet the singular standard used by the Zeiler Commission to measure the police's success - the ability to obtain a conviction for the criminals and put them behind bars.

"A lack of alertness, their involvement in the investigation of those suspected of using unacceptable considerations, and incomprehensible failure all joined together," wrote the commission, "and these led to the lowering of the curtain on the play in which there are the murdered, the murderers and law enforcement agencies - but those convicted of the murder are not guilty."

Accordingly, the Zeiler Commission's structural recommendations for the improvement of the police's work in the wake of the deficiencies uncovered in the murder affair, all concern police investigation methods and how sources are operated and controlled. Even so, there is not a single word in the 180 pages of the report concerning another flaw in the police work: the failure to lay a hand on the fruits of the crimes and their financing sources, and thereby bring about the destruction of the crime organizations by drying up their money supply.

The police failed in this for the same reason the Zeiler Commission failed to note this in its report, because no one believes that the war on crime should be measured in terms of confiscations and the extent to which the police succeed in making crime an activity that does not pay.

There was plenty to confiscate, too. The Zeiler Commission mentions at least two economic instances in which the Parinyan family was involved. One involved the trade in gas mask batteries stolen from the Israel Defense Forces in 1998, while the other concerned an illegal casino operated by the Parinyan family in the south of the country.

"We have sufficient evidence," states the Zeiler report, "concerning a casino that operated on a large monetary scale, where people lost hundreds of thousands of shekels, and which operated many years without anyone bothering to act against it."

A casino where gamblers lose hundreds of thousands of shekels is a casino that nets its owners hundreds of thousands of shekels, even millions. These two instances indicate that the Parinyan family earned a handsome livelihood from their crimes, which apparently turned them into millionaires.

Revenues of millions of shekels are an incentive to turn to crime, and certainly justify the risks involved in a life of crime, including the unavoidable risk of occasional prison terms.

If "years spent in prison" is an Israeli criminal's greatest risk is and also serves as the measure of success in the war against crime, it is missing its goal altogether.

Criminals do take their prison terms into consideration, but the risk is considered worth the benefits of a life of riches earned from crime.

As long as the criminals retain the fruits of crime and have the means to finance their crime organizations, there is no reason for them to desist from crime.

The confiscation of the fruits of crime is the best weapon in the war against crime.

This would have required the involvement of the income tax authorities, to investigate whether the Parinyan brothers paid income tax on their ill-gotten gains; the initiation of proceedings by the business licensing and the planning and building authorities; and suspicions of money laundering should have been investigated, etc.

The millions the Parinyan brothers reaped from their criminal activities should have been taken away from them, too; to make sure crime was not worthwhile.

But the police and the State Prosecutor's Office did none of these things, so the Zeiler Commission did not think to recommend them, either.