If all evidence was out, PM could've been indicted in Case 3000

‘Fifth Dimension preelection announcement against Gantz was problematic’

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit has been one of the main players, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, in the current political stalemate. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit has been one of the main players, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, in the current political stalemate.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit might have indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Submarine Affair had he known about the related Stocks Affair at the time decisions were being made, according to former police chief Roni Alsheich.
When Mandelblit decided not to interrogate Netanyahu as a suspect in Case 3000, he did not yet know the prime minister allegedly had concealed from the state comptroller a stock sale of NIS 16 million that might have been related, Alsheich told Yediot Aharonot over the weekend in his first major interview since stepping down in December 2018.
The decision to question Netanyahu as a neutral fact witness was crucial because it meant the prime minister was not questioned under caution. As a result, the police interrogators never used any of the complex techniques they use to try to expose a suspect who is lying.
Although several top aides of Netanyahu are expected to be indicted for bribery and fraud in Case 3000 for skimming off the top of a deal between Israel and the German company Thyssenkrupp, there was no evidence at the time that the prime minister received any benefit from the deal or knew of the bribery scheme.
But the police completed their investigation of Case 3000 in November 2018, with decisions about who would be a suspect made much earlier. The Stock Affair’s evidence that Netanyahu may have received a large financial benefit did not start to emerge until March 2019.
“In retrospect, if the attorney-general had known then what was later revealed, maybe he would have taken a different approach,” Alsheich said. “It will play out eventually.”
“I know only what has been made public, and if what was publicized by the state comptroller is accurate, then I assume there will be no choice other than to criminally interrogate him [Netanyahu],” he said.
“It is possible that they have already opened a criminal probe,” Alsheich said. “The police do not provide updates about what it is investigating and checking until they are ready to ‘breach’ [take actions that are likely to tip off suspects that they are being probed]. When they undertake a breach, then you learn that this person was already summoned for interrogation, and this other person was detained for interrogation.”
This is not just an academic conversation, as Mandelblit has had an open preliminary review of Netanyahu and the Stock Affair since March 2019. Moreover, there is a pending petition before the High Court of Justice to compel the attorney-general to use the Stock Affair to redefine Netanyahu as a suspect in Case 3000.
Alsheich defended the decision in real time not to treat Netanyahu as a suspect. Without the Stock Affair evidence, there was no basis to probe Netanyahu as a suspect in the Submarine Affair, he said.
Rather, it might be appropriate to have a state commission of inquiry investigate whether Netanyahu acted correctly in doing an end run around the defense establishment in purchasing additional nuclear-powered submarines that they had said they did not need, Alsheich said. But without the Stock Affair, this would be a question of proper norms in communicating with the defense establishment, not a criminal issue.
REGARDING THE controversial decision by then-acting state attorney Dan Eldad to reignite public attention around the Fifth Dimension (a company formerly run by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz), leading into the March election, Alsheich said this was “very disturbing” and defined it as “part of the political campaign.”
Eldad was almost uniformly criticized by the legal establishment as having foisted the issue back into the headlines simply to please Netanyahu and then temporary justice minister and Amir Ohana (Likud).
At the time, Ohana was accused of using his role as justice minister to try to benefit Netanyahu, undermine Gantz and create chaos within the state prosecution.
Ohana has accused Mandelblit and the prosecution of being biased against Netanyahu and against Eldad.
The questions raised by a State Comptroller’s Report were whether there was criminal wrongdoing by either Fifth Dimension or various police officials who paid Fifth Dimension millions of shekels when allegedly the company had no possibility of solving the issues the police needed addressed.
Moreover, the company eventually went bankrupt, and the millions it was paid by the police were given without any standard public bidding process with competitors.
Alsheich revealed new details about the Fifth Dimension case, describing how he met personally with Gantz to discuss the possibility of Fifth Dimension handling various artificial-intelligence functions for the police regarding facial recognition and other issues.
To date Mandelblit has not opened a criminal investigation, and neither he nor Gantz have been declared suspects for any wrongdoing, the former inspector-general said.
Furthermore, not only was there no criminal issue, but the police had acted entirely properly, and the State Comptroller’s Office reviewers simply did not understand the cutting-edge field of artificial intelligence, Alsheich said.
There was only one company in the world, located in the US, that could do what they wanted for certain, and they could not use this company because it was connected to the US intelligence community, he said. This meant that whoever they picked would be taking a risk and it would become a guessing game, he added.
In addition, to know whether Fifth Dimension could perform the needed service, five to 10 of its staffers needed to work for about two months straight devoted only to the project of loading police photos into their database and to teaching their company’s AI to recognize the photos.
This initial testing process on its own cost millions, and there was no other way to go about it because it was cutting-edge technology, Alsheich said.