In a revealing testimony, Asst.-Cmdr. Amir Gur, former head of the Southern District's Central Investigative Unit (CIU), blasted fellow senior officers on Sunday as he appeared before a commission of inquiry set up to investigate mishaps that occurred during the police investigation against the Perinan brothers.
Gur, who currently serves as the deputy chief of police in the Yarkon District, told the commission that Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi and former police chief Shlomo Aharonishky used poor judgment when appointing Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy to head the CIU. Levy, Gur claimed, maintained an inappropriate friendship with Oded and Sharon Perinan - a relationship which, he said, assisted the suspected crime brothers in escaping police clutches on several occasions.
In his testimony, Gur said that Karadi, who at the time served as the head of the Southern District Police, called him in May 2003 to ask about Levy, who he was thinking of promoting to head the CIU.
"I told him he could not appoint Levy to head the CIU," Gur recalled Sunday. "I told Karadi what I knew and that he could promote him - but just not to that position."
Despite Gur's talk with Karadi and an inconclusive polygraph test, Levy was in the end appointed to head the CIU. He is the unit's current commander.
Oded and Sharon Perinan, suspected crime bosses in the south, were indicted in October for the murder of underworld figure Pinhas Buhbot in 1999. The Perinans, the indictment claims, allegedly hired a policeman from an elite unit, Tzahi Ben-Or, to shoot Buhbot as he lay in a hospital bed recovering from a previous attempt on his life.
Ben-Or later left the police force and was arrested for armed robbery. He was released to house arrest and fled the country after police and the State Attorney's Office failed to reach a state's witness agreement with him. He was found murdered in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2004.
Gur was serving as the head of the CIU when Buhbot was murdered, and led the investigation together with Levy and other officers from the Southern District. Gur told the commission on Sunday that, when he appointed Insp. Shalom Ayida to assist in the investigation, Ayida told him that he was afraid to participate because the Perinans "were people he saw coming and going at his boss's [Levy's] home."
In May, the Justice Ministry's Police Investigative Unit (PID) cleared Levy of any criminal wrongdoing.
"Nothing like this story ever happened before and, had you asked me four years ago, I would have told you it was impossible," Gur told the commission, which is headed by former District Court Judge Vardi Zeiler. The other commission members are former head of Police Investigations Uzi Berger and Nurit Shnit, former State attorney in the Central District.
At the beginning of the month, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni decided to establish the commission to investigate alleged mishaps that occurred during the Buhbot investigation. The commission received authority from Ezra and Livni to investigate the police's conduct during the six-year investigation and to review the state attorney's office that accompanied investigators throughout the process.
In his testimony, Gur said two officers met with Ben-Or after his arrest for armed robbery in October 2000 and were told by the former cop that he was involved in an incident "that, if the country heard about it, it would go into shock." At the same meeting, Ben-Or told the officers that they needed to steer clear of Levy.
Gur said he immediately launched into negotiations with Ben-Or about granting him immunity in exchange for his testimony against the Perinans. The Southern District State Attorney refused the offer, Gur said, since she was against granting immunity to a murderer. Gur said he went to then-state attorney Edna Arbel and persuaded her to accept the offer. In the end, however, the negotiations fell through after Gur was replaced as head of the CIU and Arbel and Ben-Or failed to agree about the amount of time he would serve for the armed robbery charges.
"It is ridiculous," Gur said, "that in the end the whole thing fell through because Arbel wanted six years and Ben-Or was only willing to serve three years."
The committee is to reconvene on Tuesday to hear Levy's testimony.
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