Did Katsav's PIs break the law?

Police are adamant that two private investigators hired on behalf of Katsav crossed legal line by harassing witnesses, violating privacy.

July 13, 2011 02:50
2 minute read.
Former president Moshe Katsav

katsav appeal 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Police are adamant that two private investigators hired on behalf of ex-president Moshe Katsav to gather information to undermine witnesses from his rape trial, crossed a legal line by harassing witnesses and violating their privacy.

But Moshe Ben-David, CEO of the Karmiel-based Ben- David Hakirot PI Offices and a member of the Israel Bureau of Private Investigators, challenged the police’s view.

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Addressing suspicions that one of the PIs allegedly hired by Katsav or his brother failed to have a license, Ben-David said working in the field illegally was a severe offense.

“It makes it bad for the rest of us. In Israel, there are 400 legal PIs and 6,200 unlicensed PIs,” he said.

But had the PI in question been working with a license, there would be nothing illegal about the fact that he pretended to be a film director when he approached individuals to gather information, Ben-David said, adding that the law was clear about whom PIs are allowed to impersonate.

For example, PIs cannot claim they are licensed professionals – such as lawyers, police officers, or accountants – Ben-David said.

“You don’t need a license to make films, so a licensed PI can claim he is doing that,” he added.

A year ago, Ben-David was hired to investigate allegations of rape made by a young woman against her former partner. He said he found the woman saying that the man she accused of raping her had two options, “either marry her or nothing.”

Ben-David was subsequently arrested by police and accused by detectives of harassing a witness.

“They never used my evidence,” Ben-David said, adding that police and private investigators have suffered from a poor relationship for years.

“Police are in a panic when private investigators enter the scene and discover new evidence. But if the witnesses already testified, this is not harassment,” Ben-David argued.

Yet, the Globes newspaper, quoting clause 249 of the criminal law book, said anyone found “harassing a person regarding testimony he gave, or is about to give, in a legal investigation” is guilty of an offense punishable by three years in prison.”

“Harassing a witness would be to offer them money to not testify. That disrupts an investigation.

But here, Katsav is heading to a Supreme Court appeal and would like to present new evidence,” Ben-David said.

Ben-David, who is licensed to work abroad as a PI, said the relationship between police and PIs in other countries such as the US, Holland and Australia, is far more cooperative than in Israel.

“I’ve built up cases together with officers abroad, because they recognize that we have good information,” he said.

He added that the laws regulating the work of PIs date back to 1977 and are unclear.

Requests sent to the Justice Ministry to formulate a new set of clearer laws have not been answered, Ben-David said.

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