Allegedly corrupt judge Cohen arrested in Peru

Former Supreme Court president Barak's relation suspected of accepting bribe from Siemens.

By DAN IZENBERG
August 25, 2009 08:51
3 minute read.

Exactly four years after he fled Israel, Peruvian authorities arrested Israeli attorney and former judge Dan Cohen on Monday, in response to an extradition request filed by the Justice Ministry. On Tuesday, the Tel Aviv District Court lifted a gag order on the publication of an indictment filed against Cohen by the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office regarding four separate incidents. The charges include accepting a bribe by a public servant for an act connected with his functions, fraud and breach of faith, obtaining something by deceit in aggravated circumstances, assistance in obtaining something by deceit, false entry into the documents of a corporate body, causing misleading information to be included in financial reports and obstruction of justice. Cohen was a district court judge from 1978 to 1981, and then returned to private practice. He was a well-known and well-connected lawyer. In 1991 he joined the board of directors of the Israel Electric Corporation and was appointed chairman of the assets committee two years later. He was also a member of the higher tender committee, which recommended bids for services from outside sources to the board of directors. According to the indictment, in 1996 and 1997, Cohen founded three offshore companies in the Channel Islands, and was the owner of all three - Velsheda, Cusley International Limited and APK Limited. According to the first charge, Cohen accepted a bribe from Ezra Harel, who had a controlling interest in Rogozin Industries, which owned a 395-dunam (39.5 hectare) plot of land north of the Eshkol power plant near Ashdod. Cohen allegedly promised Harel he would persuade the IEC directors to pay the highest possible price for the land. In 1993, Rogozin had offered the land at $18 million. Two years later, after negotiations with IEC resumed, the company demanded $75m. According to the indictment, "[Cohen] exploited his influence to apply pressure on the other directors, during meetings of the board and outside, so that they would approve the deal with Rogozin and buy the land at a high price." The IEC eventually purchased the land from Rogozin for $62.5m. Cohen established Velsheda immediately after the sale. A company called Cobalt, owned by Harel, deposited one share worth $2m. into CN, the company registered as Velsheda's owner. According to the second charge, Harel transferred $800,000 to the Velsheda account at Bank Leumi in New York in the name of Rogozin International Investment BV, a subsidiary of Rogozin. Velsheda issued a false report to explain the deposit. When accountants prepared their quarterly report on Rogozin International, they asked what the $800,000 expenditure had been for. To deceive the accountants, Velsheda and Rogozin International allegedly signed several false statements to account for the transaction. According to the third count, IEC issued a tender for the purchase of three gas turbines. After two rounds of bidding, General Electric and Siemens were the only companies left. Siemens' bid was 27 percent lower than General Electric's, but GE asked for more time and began to propose changes that would reduce costs. The head of the energy division of Siemens Israel, Oren Aharonson, began to fear that if the IEC did not decide quickly, the GE bid would end up being cheaper. Aharonson and Cohen met secretly in January 2001. "At the end of the meeting Cohen invited Aharonson to keep in touch and told him that if he needed anything or wanted to consult with him, Cohen's door was always open," the indictment stated. "Starting from that first meeting, the two acted on the understanding that Cohen would receive a bribe for his help in seeing to it that Siemens would win the tender." Over the next five months Cohen pressured IEC to announce its decision regarding the tender. For example, during two meetings of the board of directors in February 2001, he criticized the board for not making up its mind. Cohen resigned from the IEC directors board on May 23, 2001 - one month before the first tenders committee agreed to buy the turbines from Siemens. In July, the higher tenders committee also approved the purchase. The transaction amounted to €320m. Aharonson and Cohen had allegedly agreed that Cohen would receive 1/3 of a percent of the value for his help. In February and March 2002, Aharonson allegedly deposited €1.049m. in a straw account owned by Cohen's brother-in-law.


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