The Movement for Quality Government wrote to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman on
Monday, requesting his timetable for establishing a body to oversee the state
Neeman has apparently set such a timetable.
letter came one day after a blistering ruling by Tel Aviv District Court Judge
David Rosen, who lambasted the state prosecution, and closed the indictment
against two executives at the Yarkon Street branch of Bank Hapoalim. The
executives had been charged with breaking the Prohibition on Money-Laundering
Law by failing to present information on clients’ accounts to the Israel Money
Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority.
dealing with the merits of the charges, Rosen closed the indictment on the
grounds that the criminal procedure conducted by the state violated the
principles of justice and judicial fairness.
The case was reminiscent of
the affair involving the wiretapping of phone calls by former prime minister
Ehud Olmert’s senior aide, Shula Zaken, during the police investigation of
former justice minister Haim Ramon. In that case, the state prosecution failed
to hand over wiretapping transcripts to the defense. State Comptroller Micha
Lindenstrauss, who recently investigated that affair, accused senior state
prosecutors of gross negligence.
In the Bank Hapoalim affair, Rosen
accused the prosecution of failures regarding four separate aspects of the case
and concluded: “The state acted in a faulty and harmful way. Its conduct borders
on the scandalous. This is true of each of the four incidents and is certainly
true when the four are taken together.
“The state failed to hand over an
inconceivable amount of evidence to the defense.
It withheld thousands of
documents, both after it filed the indictment, and for many months
The judge continued, “The state made incorrect statements in
the district and supreme courts regarding the secret photographs, as well as the
affair involving prosecution witness Leon Boiko. An indictment was served
against the defendants, in contrast to the many kinds of arrangements the
prosecution reached with the banks’ clients.” The latter were also
In one of the failures referred to by Rosen, the state
withheld from the defense more than 38 large boxes of material containing tens
of thousands of documents, including the testimony of key witnesses during
In early 2009, after the indictment had been filed,
the defense asked the prosecution twice whether it had handed over all the
evidence. On both occasions, the state did not reply to the letter. When the
state began to call up witnesses on December 13, 2009, it informed the court it
had transferred all evidence in its possession to the defense. But on January 6,
2010, the state announced it had discovered the additional
Regarding the contradictory announcements of the prosecution,
Rosen wrote, “The state’s declaration in court is taken as the true state of
affairs. An incorrect declaration by the state can damage the foundations of the
judicial process. An incorrect declaration can also undermine public confidence
in the prosecution and its representatives…Public confidence is the breath of
life of a society that depends on law and order.”
Rosen added that the
fact the prosecution discovered the additional evidence a year after filing the
indictment may have meant it did not read the material itself.
case, it prepared the indictment without knowing all it should have known about
Another issue had to do with secret photos taken of people
entering the offices of the two defendants, Alek Leder and Yaakov Sverdlik. The
conversations in their offices were taped, and the photos were taken to connect
the voices to the specific individuals.
The defense asked for the photos,
declaring that they constituted evidence.
The state refused to hand them
over, saying that according to the police, the visitors had only been
photographed from the back, and their faces could not be seen.
lawyer, Shimon Dolan, rejected the state’s argument; he noted that the visitor’s
faces would have been seen when they left the room. Furthermore, if the photos
were useless, why had the state asked the court to extend its permit to take
more secret photos for another two months? In the ruling, Rosen quoted trial
testimony by a police investigator who confirmed that the visitors’ faces could
be seen on their way out. It emerged that the prosecutors had never seen the
photos at all; they had allegedly relied on the statements of police
investigators who had seen the photos, and then gotten the information
The judge charged that “the state’s declarations were, at the very
least, based on half-truths.” In the case of the state’s witness, Leon Boiko,
Rosen concluded that the state had “distorted” the truth in declaring that Boiko
was not a state’s witness; it was being untruthful in declaring it had not
promised Boiko anything in return for his testimony, which incriminated Leder
Afterwards, prosecutor Tali Najari did admit that the
police had let Boiko know before his testimony that it would pay a fine of NIS
200,000 he owed to the income tax authority for income he failed to
In a statement to the court, Najari acknowledged that the state
“had erred regarding the information it gave…and in doing so misled, not
deliberately, the district and supreme courts.”
In an article in Monday’s
Yediot Aharonot entitled “Rot,” the former head of the Courts Administration and
Jerusalem District Court Judge Boaz Okun wrote, “The verdict given yesterday
[Sunday] minced no words and served as a warning, but it is not the only such
Recent court decisions paint a grim and frightening picture of
a black wind blowing through the corridors of the prosecution, expressing itself
in overeagerness to convict, in statements that are half-truths and in
Okun warned that the prosecution itself may become
rotten “because there is no mechanism of oversight, no learning the lessons of
the affair and no accepting of responsibility. No prosecutor is asked to be
accountable because the prosecution is above everything.”
Justice Ministry issued a statement saying it is “studying the court’s ruling.
However, already from first reading, it appears the state disagrees with some of
the court’s findings.
“We must stress the importance of filing the
indictment and conducting the case, which is one of the first against bank
officers in accordance with Paragraph 3 of the Prohibition of Money- Laundering
Law. Bank officers are the front-line guards, the first link in the chain of
reporting which banks must do in the international struggle against
money-laundering and terror financing.
This is the reason why it is so
important to press charges, given the potential for harm that can be caused the
state and its economy.
“The comments made by the court regarding the
conduct of the prosecution were discussed in court – after the court, as is its
practice, raised the matter. Since the state’s disclosures were made, discussed
and even published, the proper conclusions were reached and lessons
“The prosecution does not believe the defense of the defendants
was so badly damaged as to justify the cancellation of the indictment. And from
a first reading of the court’s decision, it seems that the court did not discuss
in detail the degree of the damage that incurred.
“We are concerned with
an investigation in which enormous amounts of material were gathered, and it is
only natural that when dealing with so great a volume, mistakes will happen.
With all due respect, one should not accept the approach that mistakes which did
no damage to the defendant’s defense should lead to the cancellation of the
“Despite the acquittal, we hope the message will get through
– that bank employees are not immune from criminal trial, and that the
obligation to report applies to every citizen of the state as part of the
struggle against money-laundering and terror financing.
In this context,
the prosecution welcomes the establishment of an economic court, and is
considering bringing money-laundering cases before it.”