A private detective described to the Zeiler Committee on Tuesday how Southern District police facilitated the return of NIS 9 million worth of stolen batteries via suspected underworld figure Oded Perinian.
However, doubt was placed on Haim "Shogun" Pinhas's testimony by another private investigator, Moshe Bekka, who arrived unannounced and requested to give evidence. Both PIs are former police officers.
Oded Perinian and his brother Sharon are suspected of ordering the killing of alleged rival Pinhas Buhbout in 1999, a year after the gas mask batteries were stolen from a Gan Yavne warehouse owned by the Home Front Command.
The Zeiler Committee, which is led by District Court Judge Vardi Zeiler, was set up late last year to examine how Southern District police handled Buhbout's murder investigation. Part of the probe has also centered on the relationship between the police and the Perinians.
Shogun said he was appointed by the Magen insurance company to find out what happened to the batteries. During the investigation, the PI received a phone call from Robbie Gilboa, who was the head of the intelligence department in Lahish.
"He said he had good information about where the batteries were," said Shogun. "We met in the police station and he said that for a fee a source could get the batteries back."
Shogun received Magen's authority to carry out a deal and Gilboa set up a meeting between the PI and the source, who turned out to be Oded Perinian. After a series of negotiations, the sides agreed on a NIS 600,000 pricetag, although Shogun warned that he wasn't certain of the exact figure because of the amount of time that had since elapsed.
Gilboa's superior was Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, head of the Southern District's Central Investigative Unit, who spoke to Shogun on the phone but never met him, the PI said. Levy told Shogun that the police received approval for the transaction from the Southern District prosecutor's office, although there are no written records of such an authorization and the prosecutors don't remember giving it.
Shogun said he paid Perinian most of the money in cash in Gilboa's office and waited for a phone call from the police officer to find out where he could pick up the batteries. When Shogun handed Perinian the money, Levy was apparently in the corridor.
Within a few days, Gilboa rang Shogun and told him he could receive the goods at a gas station. Shogun followed Gilboa's instructions and took receipt of the batteries at night, after which he paid the rest of the money.
Shogun said he told Gilboa that he thought Perinian was the thief and that the police should go after him. "Gilboa said he was an important source and valuable to the state," said Shogun. "I started to go after Perinian but Gilboa instructed me not to because it would interfere with their investigations."
During Shogun's testimony, Bekka called him a liar under his breath, and after Shogun had left the building, Bekka gave his testimony. He related that the day after the robbery, a source - not Oded Perinian - told Bekka that he knew where the batteries were.
"The break-in was at night and in the morning I had samples in my hand," said Bekka. "The source said that for a price he could provide the goods and the thieves," the PI said, adding that the amount he would have paid was between NIS 250,000-300,000. "We [his PI company] had a meeting and decided that we would do a deal, return the goods and get the thieves."
He said he made inquiries and found out that the insurance company that was providing the cover for the batteries was Magen. Bekka approached them with his information, but Magen forced him to give up the file and pass it over to Shogun, who had a strong relationship with the company.
Bekka didn't provide details about his source in public other than to say that Gilboa used him as well. However, Bekka also gave testimony behind closed doors and it is likely he provided more information to the judges.
Since the story of the stolen batteries was exposed a month ago, the Police Investigative Department (PID) has opened an investigation, to which Shogun has provided testimony. This isn't the first time the PID has probed the relationship between Southern police and the Perinian brothers, having investigated Levy last year. Both were closed without indictments.
There were suspicions that Levy took bribes and assisted the brothers in escaping arrest on several occasions, although PID prosecutor Moshe Saada, who worked on the second probe, told the hearing that he closed it because the evidence suggested Levy wasn't guilty of any crimes. At the time, Saada wasn't aware of the story of the stolen batteries.
Saada ended the investigation despite Levy taking two inconclusive lie-detector tests - one with the police and one with the PID - with the suspicion being that he tried to fail them on purpose. Levy carried out a third test last year with a private firm, who said he was telling the truth.
The panel pressed Saada on why, in his summing up of the PID investigation, he didn't write about Levy's suspicious behavior at the lie-detector tests. Saada replied that the tests were only part of the evidence.