Senior Officers Lobbied for Return of Cop Cleared of Taking Bribes Thanks to 'Glitch'

Ilya Strashnoy, a former police officer with the Yarkon District police, was acquitted a year ago on charges of taking monetary and sexual bribes from a pimp in exchange for the quick release of prostitutes he had arrested while on duty.

Strashnoy's acquittal was enabled only due to what Tel Aviv District attorneys called "an administrative glitch," after the key witness against him fled abroad before his testimony was collected.

The fact that Strashnoy was cleared because of the State Prosecutor's negligence does not seem to have made an impression on a number of senior police officers, who lobbied police authorities to reinstate the officer.

The fact that Strashnoy was cleared because of the State Prosecutor's negligence does not seem to have made an impression on a number of senior police officers, who lobbied for police authorities to reinstate the officer.

Among those pushing for his reinstatement were Maj. Gen. Avi Ben Hemo, head of the police's transportation unit; Zion District commander Brig. Gen. Bruno Stein; and former Yarkon District chief Brig. Gen. (ret.) Eli Arazi.

In 1999, the Yarkon District's intelligence bureau began receiving word that Strashnoy was getting information from a pimp named Stanislav Nekrakovsky about the hiding places of prostitutes working illegally in Israel.

Once Strashnoy had detained the prostitutes, he demanded that the pimps for whom the prostitutes worked pay him money in return for the women's release.

In March 2000, Strashnoy was detained by the police's branch for investigating officers within its own ranks and suspended immediately from active duty.

Nekrakovsky, meanwhile, was tried and sent to prison for several years on a variety of offenses. Despite the severity of the charges, it was not until 2006 that an indictment was filed including all nine counts of bribery against Strashnoy.

Six months after the indictment was filed, the State Prosecutor's Office announced that the key witness had likely fled the country, and asked the attorney general to delay legal proceedings against Strashnoy.

Two years later, in November 2008, the State Prosecutor announced that since the witness had not yet returned to Israel and apparently did not plan on doing so in the near future, they would be retracting the indictment. Shortly thereafter, Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court acquitted Strashnoy of the offenses attributed to him.

Immediately following that, Strashnoy wrote to police demanding that he be returned to service, and included a number of recommendations from senior officers.

A letter sent jointly by Ben Hemo and Stein stated that "Ilya is considered a high-quality officer, professional and initiative-taking. Given that I am aware of the matter for which the officer was suspended, as well as his acquittal by the court, I warmly recommend that he be returned to service."

Arazi wrote in his recommendation: "Ilya excelled in his work with immigrants from the former Soviet Union. He can be relied upon in any area. I was made aware that Ilya was acquitted on all charges, and I'd be happy to see him back in police action, contributing his superior abilities."

Superintendent Avi Ofer, commander of the Yarkon District central patrol unit, wrote, "The aforementioned officer served with me, and was a mentor throughout my entire service with the police. Ilya was well-liked among his colleagues in the unit, and served as a personal example to his peers."

One police official less impressed by the letters was Maj. Gen. Amichai Shai, the head of the police's human resources wing, who decided against reinstating the officer to service. He subsequently notified him of his dismissal, writing: "The actions and offenses for which you were suspended, some of which you confessed to, testify to the inappropriateness of you serving with the police."

Ben Hemo said in response to the decision, "The commander's opinion on the officer's actions during the period in which [Strashnoy] served under his command do not refer to the legal or professional considerations being examined by accredited officials in the police's human resources branch."

Arazi added, "What I wrote came from my acquaintance with Ilya while he was under my command. While I was Yarkon District commander I didn't receive a single complaint against him, and beyond that, if the court determined that he is to be cleared, that decision must be respected."

At press time, a response had yet to be received from Ofer, nor from Stein, who is currently abroad.