Prominent lawyer and media personality Ronel Fisher was arrested on suspicion of being a middle man in a series of bribery schemes between senior police officials and clients of his under investigation – including bribes to close cases or pass on classified information, such as to Ashdod Port union head, Alon Hassan.
Because Fisher has such close relations with so many top officials, including representing some, such as Dep.- Ch. Ephraim Bracha who heads the National Fraud Squad, the scandal threatens to rock the Israel Police to the core.
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court lifted a gag order on Sunday on the arrest of Fisher, who had been detained on Thursday in a sting operation approved by State Attorney Shai Nitzan.
While not commenting on Fisher’s guilt, the court affirmed the state’s argument that the allegations against him were solid, implying it would agree to further state requests to extend Fisher’s time in police custody as the investigation proceeds.
Ruth Blum David, formerly Tel Aviv district-attorney and Fisher’s partner in the same firm, represented him. Fisher’s office denied the allegations.
Reportedly, though there may be many other allegations, the sting operation that ensnared Fisher involved Hassan turning him in to the police.
According to media reports, Hassan told police that Fisher said he could get law enforcement officials to close the case against him if he gave Fisher $150,000 for the use of bribes.
The police taped conversations between the two and collected a range of evidence.
Hassan earlier revealed to police that Fisher provided him with tactical details of the corruption investigation against him so that he could better prepare for questioning.
He stands accused of tipping off Hassan about the case against him and the raid at the Ashdod port shortly before it took place.
Fisher is suspected of involvement in a number of other cases where investigation intelligence he received from police officer clients was handed down in exchange for bribes, but no information has been revealed yet as to which officers will be investigated.
Earlier on Sunday, the Justice Ministry said that Fisher was arrested under suspicion of bribery and obstruction of justice.
On Friday the morning after Fisher was arrested, the Israel Police Spokesman’s Office issued a statement saying, “Beginning last night [Thursday], we saw reports in different outlets, with headlines and hints that besmirch the 30,000 officers who work day and night for the security of the citizens of Israel, without allowing us the possibility to respond to the issue.”
The statement added that “it would be fitting to wait and not publish baseless reports and speculation,” adding that the reports are meant to hurt the police and Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino.
The case is the latest in a long list of highly-publicized scandals on Danino’s watch.
This latest wrongdoing comes amid major public criticism toward police for the mishandling of an emergency dispatch call placed by Gil-Ad Shaer on the night of his kidnapping and subsequent murder, after which police held an internal probe and removed four officers from their posts.
This past year, there was the highly publicized collapse of the Bar Noar murder case, one of the flagship investigations for the Israel police, the scandal involving allegations that the former head of the Lahav 433 – Serious and International Crime Unit – took bribes from Rabbi Yeshayahu Yosef Pinto, in addition to a string of underworld car bombings and murders that led to public and media criticism of the police’s ability to tackle organized crime.
Danino found himself facing a new controversy on Saturday night, when Ynet reported discrepancies in his official story about where he had been when the kidnapping took place. Danino was in the United States on June 12, when the kidnapping occurred, and only came back on June 14.
Police had said that he was attending a major conference in New York for police chiefs around the world, but that conference actually takes place annually in October. Instead, according to Ynet, Danino was at a much lesser-known police conference in San Francisco at the time.