The state prosecution is expected to recommend to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to criminally probe whether there was any wrongdoing by the Fifth Dimension, a now bankrupt cybersecurity company that was formerly owned by Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz.
At this stage, Gantz is not expected to be treated as a suspect, only as a fact witness, and no formal decisions are expected until after the March 2 election.
The first report of possible wrongdoing surfaced in Haaretz last February, followed by a report by former state comptroller Joseph Shapira in March 2019.
It appeared that Channel 13 was tipped off first about the latest developments on Wednesday night, but The Jerusalem Post has independently confirmed the reports.
It was unknown whether the regular police or the Police Investigations Department would run the probe, since it was unclear if the case was mostly against Fifth Dimension employees, middlemen or some of the police involved.
In March 2019, Shapira’s report said that the police had acted improperly in granting Gantz’s Fifth Dimension company a deal to produce a technological solution without following the standard competitive bidding process.
More specifically, the report said that the company made three misleading statements in selling to the police, to get them to grant Fifth Dimension the deal.
Part of the delay in deciding whether to go after the Fifth Dimension on criminal charges has been that it had middlemen who were former top senior police officials, who might have gotten special treatment from police – and Gantz himself was allowed to be present during internal police discussions about who to grant the deal to.
In the end, Gantz’s company was paid only NIS 4 million of the NIS 50m. it might have gotten for the full deal, since it carried out only a pilot program before going bankrupt.
The company went bankrupt after its main investor, a Russian tycoon close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was sanctioned by the US government.
Shapira’s report had said that the police even were prepared to grant Fifth Dimension use of proprietary police technology at a discount to help it develop the solution that the police wanted it to produce.
But it is even possible that Gantz’s company could have been paid NIS 50m. by the police if his company had not gone bankrupt. The bankruptcy also meant that Gantz’s company did not actually ever get access to the police proprietary technology, which they would have received at a later stage.
All of this raised questions about whether Fifth Dimension representatives made false statements to the police to try to win a multimillion shekel deal, and if they did, whether Gantz knew.
The latest developments indicate that the prosecution does not have evidence that Gantz knew about the alleged misrepresentations.
The comptroller’s report had been based on an internal police document which was supposedly based on Fifth Dimension’s representations.
This disclosure raised the complex question as to whether Fifth Dimension made false representations to police, or whether officials within the police cooked up their own internal documents which they said were based on Fifth Dimension representations, even though Fifth Dimension might not have actually made them.
It was also unclear exactly what role some ex-senior police officials, who acted as middlemen between the police and Fifth Dimension, played in this affair.
In any event, the comptroller’s report said the police internal document stated that Fifth Dimension pitched the solution to police, saying that it was founded in 2012, had five major governmental authority-level clients and had the technology the police needed already ready.
In fact, the comptroller said that Fifth Dimension was founded in 2014, and, while it may have had clients in the pipeline, had not actually made a single finalized sale when it made the pitch to the police.
Further, while Fifth Dimension was working on the new technology, which did pass two initial tests that the police asked it to carry out, the solution was by no means ready.
The police responded to the comptroller’s report saying that they carefully follow the rules regarding their purchases, and that a government committee had signed off on them proceeding with Gantz’s company without a competitive bidding process.
According to police, the premise was that only Gantz’s company was even close to producing the solution that they wanted.
Both the police and a representative of Gantz’s company were quoted in the media as saying that the police had benefited from the pilot project in getting closer to the solution they needed.
A representative of Gantz’s company in March 2019 blamed the comptroller’s criticism either on the police or alternatively on the comptroller for jumping to incorrect conclusions.
He denied that Fifth Dimension made the representations it is accused of making by the comptroller, saying that such falsehoods made no sense, as they could be easily uncovered.
Gantz’s representative rejected any criticism in March 2019, saying the comptroller’s report was focused on criticizing the police.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a statement Wednesday night saying simply that it was “a sad night for the State of Israel,” without elaborating.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.