Aharonovitch: Police can't fight mob without tax officials' help

After a report issued by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss blasted the way that Israel handles its war against organized crime, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told the State Control Committee Tuesday that the weak link in the struggle was not the police, but the Israel Tax Authority (ITA). In his report and at Tuesday's meeting, Lindenstrauss called on the government to increase the police budget, and noted that although police are making the struggle against organized crime a priority, "the struggle against organized crime requires a budget and allocation of resources and this is one of the central missions for the government." Aharonovitch said during the hearing that law enforcement officials' hands were tied unless they received better cooperation from the ITA. "Even if we arrest crime family heads, without the ITA we cannot hurt them on a financial level," said Aharonovitch. But ITA assistant investigations chief Avi Arditi tried to deflect the blame. "Sadly, the ITA has unfairly been turned into a fig leaf for everything related to the war of organized crime," he said. "The ITA acted, acts and will act with determination on everything related to fighting crime organizations, with the Israel Police, or without them." Arditi said that one of the stumbling blocks is the unwillingness of Income Tax Authority employees to work with the police without receiving salary hikes. He emphasized that the ITA's management was holding negotiations with the workers' committee in an effort to reach an agreement on the issue. In the latest State Comptroller's Report, published earlier this month, Lindenstrauss blasted the Justice Ministry, the Israel Police and the ITA regarding their efforts against organized crime, which he said were insufficient and in fact allowed the syndicates to continue to grow more powerful. Since 2004, a number of steps have been taken, including the 2006 establishment of a joint task force in the National Police Headquarters to try to smooth the cooperation among the police, the tax investigators and prosecutors, but Lindenstrauss found that none of the initiatives have dealt a serious blow to organized crime.