Top police chief candidate Danino target of probe

State Comptroller's office source: Aharonovitch requested review of candidates, didn't say he was about to appoint next police chief.

December 1, 2010 21:45
3 minute read.
Yitzhak Aharonovitch

Aharonovitch 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))

The troubled race to be the next police chief was thrown into disarray once more on Wednesday when it emerged that a leading candidate, Southern District head Cmdr.

Yochanan Danino, is the subject of an ongoing inquiry by the state comptroller regarding alleged negligence and an alleged cover-up over the homicide of two police informants in 2006.

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Two criminals turned police agents – Eyal Salhov of Bnei Brak, from the Ruhan crime organization, and a second agent from the Jarushi crime family (the top Jerusalem crime syndicate), whose name is still being withheld, were murdered in 2006. No suspects have been arrested.

The inquiry was launched in 2009 following a complaint by a former senior intelligence gathering officer, Dep.-Cmdr. Yisrael Abarbanel, who alleged that police mishandled the affair, leading to the agents’ exposure and murder, and that the episode was then whitewashed by police.

Danino was head of the police’s Investigations and Operations Branch at the time of the murders.

After retiring from the police last year, Abarbanel sent a letter to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and then-public security minister Avi Dichter in which he accused senior officers of “irresponsible conduct that led to the incidents.”

Abarbanel also alleged that the police’s own inquiry of the murders was a cover-up.

A source close to Danino told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he remained “optimistic” and was “waiting” for further developments.

During a ceremony held to honor outstanding officers at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said, “Following consultations with the attorneygeneral and the state comptroller, I have decided to postpone by a few days a recommendation for the appointment of the next police chief, to allow all the checks to proceed with full transparency, and to appoint an unblemished police chief.”

It remains unclear how the minister can proceed with an appointment anytime soon so long as Danino remains a candidate, since the inquiry is still “at its peak,” according to a source from the State Comptroller’s Office.

The source added that the police’s internal inquiry into the affair “was also being examined.”

Aharonovitch had asked Lindenstrauss to examine his list of seven candidates to be the Israel Police’s inspector-general on November 15, the source told the Post, but the minister did not indicate to Lindenstrauss that he planned to appoint one of the candidates soon. It was unclear when the inquiry would end, the source said.

On Tuesday, Aharonovitch was notified that Danino was the subject of an inquiry, forcing him to postpone the appointment. “We were told that there is a problem regarding one of the candidates,” a Public Security Ministry official told the Post.

During his speech on Wednesday, Aharonovitch lamented the developments of the past two weeks, in which former front-running candidate for police chief Cmdr. Uri Bar- Lev was accused of sexual offenses by two women, leading him to withdraw from the race.

“We have witnessed an episode that has rocked the Israel Police. An episode that did not honor anyone in the police or the country. An episode that cast a shadow on the officers of the Israel Police, and unjustifiably so,” Aharonovitch said.

Bar-Lev, who denies all allegations against him, was questioned again by the Police Investigations Department on Wednesday for an hour and a half. He was not required to undergo a polygraph test during the interrogation.

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