dani naveh 298 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The National Fraud Squad is looking into suspicions that senior Health Ministry officials working out of the office of Health Minister Dan Naveh made illegal political appointments, possibly even with Naveh's knowledge and consent, police revealed on Thursday.
In a simultaneous but separate investigation, the state comptroller is probing allegations of improper civil service appointments by senior officials in Magen David Adom.
The suspicions concerning the ministry were based on findings submitted by the state comptroller and collected from other sources, police said. They stressed that for now only ministry officials were under investigation, and not Naveh himself.
"For now we are reviewing the material and will see where it takes us," a senior officer said, explaining the preliminary step police were taking before launching a criminal investigation. "At this stage it is still too early to tell whether Naveh himself will come under investigation."
Because the probe is still its initial stages and has yet to turn into a criminal investigation, police estimated it would not be completed before the upcoming general elections.
Naveh's associates rejected the accusations, claiming the minister was not remotely involved in political appointments.
"The health minister was not involved in political appointments and the entire idea is baseless," Naveh's media adviser Shai Rubinstein said.
The Likud's ministerial forum decided last week to replace interim Likud chairman Tzahi Hanegbi, who quit the party to join Kadima, with a team of Likud leaders led by Naveh, who will run the party until the Likud primary on Monday.
Last week, police said there was enough evidence to charge Hanegbi with making illegal political appointments while he served as environment minister. In his annual report, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss also singled out Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) as the "champion of political appointments." Katz, who denied the allegations, was questioned by police last July.
Two months ago, police said, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and State Prosecutor Eran Shendar decided to launch an investigation into suspicions that officials in Naveh's office were involved in illegal appointments.
If the police find cause to suspect Naveh of direct involvement in improper appointments, they will have to request special permission from Mazuz to investigate.
Lindenstrauss said he launched his investigation into Magen David Adom following "serious complaints" that he received regarding the way senior officials in the organization were chosen. On the basis of his findings so far, the state comptroller said he had not yet decided to file an official complaint with the attorney-general or the police.
In October 2005, Naveh's former adviser, David Wolfe, admitted he had threatened Dov Passat, the Health Ministry deputy director-general for administration and manpower, to force him to agree to give a job to a Likud Central Committee member.
Wolfe admitted to this and other charges as part of a plea bargain agreement in a disciplinary proceeding taken against him by the Civil Service commissioner.
Wolfe had warned Passat that he might lose his job or not be promoted unless he agreed to the appointment.
At the same time, Lindenstrauss said Thursday he has been looking into appointments made by senior Magen David Adom officials.
Lindenstrauss said he had completed his preliminary investigation two weeks ago and was now awaiting the responses of the officials to his findings.
The Justice Ministry stressed that the ongoing investigation regarding alleged illegal appointments made in Magen David Adom is unrelated to the Health Ministry probe, and is currently being handled exclusively by the state comptroller.