Mazuz: Ganot appointment legally sound but problematic
Ganot to replace Karadi, despite past accusations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust; Mazuz: Appointment will be hard to defend.
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, JPOST.COM STAFF
February 18, 2007 07:58
Zeiler 298.88 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Monday criticized Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's decision to appoint Israel Prisons Service Chief Warden Yaakov Ganot in place of Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi as the head of the Israel Police after Karadi resigned following the Zeiler Commission's report on Sunday.
In a letter to Dichter, Mazuz cited accusations against Ganot from 12 years ago, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Ganot was later cleared of all allegations in both the District and Supreme Courts.
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Despite the acquittal, Mazuz said, "the State Prosecutor at the time, Edna Arbel, sought to discharge Ganot, who was serving as the Northern District commander."
Mazuz also mentioned that although there was no way to officially prevent Ganot's appointment, it would be difficult to defend such an appointment if it came before the High Court.
On Sunday, Dichter got the last word following the release of the Zeiler Commission's final report, shocking many both inside and outside the law enforcement community by naming Ganot as the 16th head of the Israel Police.
Dichter's announcement came after Karadi dropped a bombshell of his own by announcing his resignation 90 minutes before Dichter's scheduled press conference.
The earthquake that was expected to shake the police following the release of the commission's report came quickly, as less than eight hours after it was published, both Karadi and his deputy, Cmdr. Benny Kaniak, found themselves off the force.
Karadi spoke at a hastily arranged press conference at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem hours after two out of three members of the Zeiler Commission recommended he should remain in his post until the end of his term, but that it would not be extended beyond August 2007. The panel's head, former Tel Aviv District Court judge Vardi Zeiler, offered a minority opinion that Karadi should be sent home immediately.
"Although the majority of committee members decided it would be appropriate that I continue in office until the end of my term, as befits someone who deeply cares about the organization, I must take into account that this might drag the police into a series of witch-hunts. Therefore, out of [a sense of] personal responsibility, I have decided to terminate my position as inspector general of the Israel Police," Karadi said.
He went on to say that the committee's conclusions regarding his personal conduct came as a surprise, adding, "This is a difficult time for me as well as for the police organization."
Less than two hours later, Dichter confirmed what many had already believed - that he had been planning Karadi's dismissal, and that the top cop's announcement had merely given him a head start on what was going to happen anyway.
If anyone thought Karadi had stolen the minister's thunder, Dichter quickly proved otherwise. "In order to stabilize the police establishment, I have decided to replace its leadership - the chief of police and the deputy chief of police," said Dichter during a press conference at the Internal Security Ministry, separated only by a parking lot from the police headquarters where Karadi had made his announcement.
The dismissal of Kaniak, who was not mentioned in the Zeiler report, was unexpected.
But Dichter was not done. After rumors in recent days that Dichter had turned to "outside" candidates to fill Karadi's position, including Yeruham Mayor and former OC Central Command Amram Mitzna, the former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head displayed once again his penchant for secrecy by announcing the appointment of Ganot, and that of police Cmdr. Mickey Levy as his deputy.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the appointments of Ganot and Levy, saying he was confident they would effectively lead the police.
Olmert, who is reportedly friends with Levy from the days when he was mayor of Jerusalem and Levy was the capital's police chief, said Dichter had made the appointment and that he was not consulted about it beforehand.
Olmert, according to a statement put out by his office, phoned Karadi on Sunday night to express his appreciation for the job he has done over the years.
Ganot, who is respected by ministry insiders, had a long police career before he left to take over the Prisons Service. But the decorated veteran also has a stumbling block standing between his nomination and the key to the police chief's office. It appeared Sunday night that Olmert had not yet okayed the appointment.
In 1994, while he commanded the police's Northern District, Ganot was put on trial for allegedly accepting bribes from the Tanus family of Nazareth. When the court absolved him of all charges, the District Attorney's Office appealed to the Supreme Court. He was restored to his position by then-internal security minister Avigdor Kahalani, but with the caveat that he not hold "central or command" positions. That warning was later disregarded by then-internal security minister Tzahi Hanegbi, who appointed Ganot to his current position.
But the command shuffle at the top of the police ranks was not the only dramatic outcome of the commission's findings on Sunday. The panel, which was charged with reviewing the way police and prosecutors led a six-year investigation into the 1999 murder of underworld figure Pinhas Buhbout, delivered a series of damning condemnations against police officers and against the force in general.
Police believed that southern crime bosses Oded and Sharon Perinian hired former policeman Tzahi Ben-Or to murder Buhbout while the latter was recuperating from a previous attempt on his life. Ben-Or entered into negotiations to serve as a state's witness against the Perinians, but later fled the country and was murdered in Mexico in 2004.
A large part of the inquiry centered around the personality of Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, a senior police officer in the Southern District, who was been accused of receiving bribes in exchange for aiding the Perinian family, and who was appointed to his position by Karadi, the Southern District commander at the time.
The commission also recommended that 25-year police veteran Jerusalem District head Cmdr. Ilan Franco not receive the position of chief of police in the coming round of nominations, a serious blow - but not necessarily a career ending one for a man whom Dichter said on Sunday night "is an excellent officer who does his work well and... whose future in the police is still open before him."
More seriously affected were Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Navon, whom the commission recommended be removed from his position, and Dep.-Cmdr Aharon Zargarov, who the panel said should be demoted. In his case, the commission also said the police should consider "opening appropriate proceedings against him" due to his decision to close the Buhbout murder case - an incident in which, the report said, the commission members had "the sense that Zargarov had lied to the District Attorney's Office."
But the harshest findings were reserved for Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy and Ch.-Supt. Ruby Gilboa, whom the report recommended should be immediately removed from the ranks of the Israel Police, possibly being be demoted first.
Zeiler said Sunday that while other officers had acted inappropriately due to "carelessness and negligence," Levy had acted inappropriately due to "forbidden motivations," namely his connections to the Perinian crime family.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.