(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Justice Ministry’s unit that fights financial crimes is “the glue which holds together all law enforcement” efforts against terrorism financing and money-laundering, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said on Tuesday.
Mandelblit was speaking at the ministry’s conference in Tel Aviv to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Israel Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Prohibition Authority.
The attorney-general said the authority’s work was of “very high quality and professional,” and that it has become more crucial as “fighting terrorism financing... and international crime” itself have become “more international.”
He said that absent the authority’s work, Israel “could face serious consequences to its global status” in banking and other areas.
Next Dr. Shlomit Wegman-Rotner, the authority’s director, discussed the unit’s impact on law enforcement by providing it “intelligence, financial intelligence” and other information from international partners.
“Financial intelligence is getting bigger and more important,” Wegman- Rotner said, adding that the authority has seen a “100% jump in requests to provide financial intelligence from law enforcement.”
She said there had been two major jumps in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), police and other agencies requesting the authority’s help with financial intelligence.
The first, she said, took place in 2006, when the government prioritized fighting international organized crime. Then there was another jump in 2016, when law enforcement started to “more fully understand what we can do” to help them.
Wegman-Rotner expressed pride in a recent investigation in which intelligence provided by the authority broke open a case for the Shin Bet and the police, though she said she could not specify the case.
In addition, she said that often when her authority found dirty money and shut off the flow, closing one spigot helped law enforcement more easily track where the dirty money moved next.
On another front, the authority director said that Israel “needed to deal with various problems” and “quickly pass new laws” to address criticisms by international financial institutions if it wanted to remain in good stead.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked; former head of police intelligence and investigations Meni Yitzhaki; and Tel Aviv Financial Crimes Prosecution Director Liat Ben-Ari – two dominant figures in the probes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – also addressed the conference.
Both Yitzhaki and Ben-Ari complimented the authority for opening new horizons in fighting financial crimes.
Ben-Ari added that in one recent interrogation, a suspect was more afraid of the financial tax-investigator in the room than of the police interrogator.