The unusual suspect

By
August 27, 2010 17:03

Aggravated forgery carries a 5 year sentence.

4 minute read.



AT THE CENTER of the storm. OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant (left) and PR baron Eyal Arad.

Arad 311. (photo credit: (Ariel Jerozolimski/Courtesy)

From its first day, the police investigation into the forged “Galant document” has been anything but usual. The document, made public by Channel 2 earlier this month, purports to show that Arad Communications, a public relations firm, drew up a detailed plan to damage the reputations of senior IDF officers in a bid to promote OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant’s candidacy to become chief of General Staff.

Police have since established that the document is a forgery and have vindicated the Arad firm’s claim that its logo was unlawfully used.

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As far as the police is concerned, tracking down the person or group of people who placed Arad’s logo on the document is the end goal of the investigation.

For the IDF, however, things are far more complex, and the document has raised troubling questions about cloak-and-dagger plots and bitter rivalries at its helm.

Under pressure from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, the police was forced to act unusually in ordering its elite National Serious and International Crimes Unit to head the investigation into the minor suspicion of forgery, former senior National Fraud Unit investigator Dep.-Cmdr. Boaz Guttman told The Jerusalem Post this week.

Also unusual for document forgery cases, police arrested the main suspect, Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, a former intelligence officer, at the airport upon his arrival from a trip abroad and insisted that he be kept in custody.

The penalty for a conviction for forgery is a one-year prison sentence, and the police is not in the habit of making such dramatic arrests when investigating offenses that carry such a relatively light sentence. At most, suspects are questioned, and indictments are eventually either written up or the case is dropped.

The law does, however, stipulate that a conviction on a charge of aggravated forgery carries a prison sentence of five years – a far more serious affair. And “aggravated forgery” is the count being investigated by detectives, police announced this week.

But Guttman said there was nothing “aggravated” about the Galant document forgery. “What makes it aggravated? The fact that it was leaked to Channel 2 news?” he asked. “Forging a document, on its own, is a child’s act. You don’t need an elite international unit to investigate. Media pressure is behind this investigation. There’s no reason to keep this man locked up other than to score points with the media. This is a show.”

Col. Gabi Siboni, an associate of OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, is the man who leaked the document to Channel 2, and he has affirmed that the content of the paper, which laid out detailed instructions on how to damage the reputations of Galant’s rivals, was highly relevant and true, even if the logo was fabricated.

“If charged, Harpaz could call Siboni and [Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Gabi] Ashkenazi and others to the witness stand in his defense to say that the text is true,” Guttman said. “All we are talking about, from a legal perspective, is a logo.”

Indeed, Siboni told police during questioning that he received a copy of the paper from Col. Erez Viner, an assistant to Ashkenazi. Senior military figures, like IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu – a close associate of Ashkenazi – were heard referring to the document’s content before it was leaked to Channel 2, lending credence to the view that it was taken very seriously by senior officers.

Benayahu however says he first learned of the document at the time of the Channel 2 broadcast.

During its investigation, the police questioned more than 200 people, gave very senior army officers polygraph tests and took another unusual step. To relieve pressure on Galant, his rivals, Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the police informed the public that none of the above was linked to the document, allowing Barak to resume his planned appointment of Galant as the next chief of General Staff.

Police acknowledged that publishing information about an investigation before it was complete was rare, and justified the step as being in the “public interest,” thereby lending weight to Guttman’s position that the investigation’s pace, intensity and character are being defined by public opinion, not by suspicions of a criminal offense.

Yet more unusual steps followed. On Tuesday, police came to an agreement with Harpaz’s lawyers, according to which he will remain in custody for five days.

For defense lawyers and police to agree a custody period is odd, but for a forgery suspect to be kept in custody for five days is quite astonishing.

Harpaz’s willingness to remain in custody was part of a deal with the police, which was asked to allow him to avoid the intense media spotlight and remain absent from the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court where his remand hearing took place. The police gladly accepted the deal.

Harpaz is a businessman active in the fields of defense sales and real estate. Maintaining a low profile appears to be an absolute priority for him. Meanwhile, police have maintained unprecedented secrecy around the progress of the investigation.

It is known that investigators are checking the possibility that Harpaz did not act alone and that that he could be part of a larger group of IDF officers who came together to create the Galant document.

Harpaz has told the police that he does not know who gave him the document, and has consistently denied forging it. The coming days will reveal whether he is playing fall guy for a larger group, and whether this most unusual investigation will create further turbulence in the army.

www.yaakovlappin.com


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