Arbitrator Meletz denies being threatened by Eli Aroch

Retired High Court judge Ya'acov Meletz denied on Thursday that he was threatened by trader Eli Aroch during an arbitration dispute with investment house Clal Finance Batucha. In February, Meletz awarded Aroch NIS 95 million after a six-year hearing during which Aroch was sentenced to 10 months in prison in early 2005 for threatening witnesses. A Clal representative said the "strange result" made it suspicious that Meletz had been influenced and it hired a private detective to investigate. The PI taped a conversation she had with Meletz in which she asked him if he had been threatened. "Not now but in earlier stages," Meletz said. The PI then asked Meletz why he hadn't gone to the police and he replied that "he didn't trust them." Clal's lawyers said they were shaken up from hearing the tape. "The silence and the sighs that accompany the words show his great distress in a clear way," a Clal representative said. However, in television interviews, Meletz gave a different version of what happened. "I don't know who the investigator was, I don't remember her... There was no threat against me," he said. Aroch's lawyers couldn't be reached for comment by press time. A Clal spokeswoman said the origins of the dispute date back to 1999, when Aroch used Clal's facilities to carry out private trades. Aroch, who had earlier traded at another investment house, was in credit by NIS 800,000 when he arrived at Clal but after several transactions he had fallen about NIS 1m. into the red. Within two weeks his positions were liquidated and Clal prevented him from trading. Aroch, however, refused to accept the decision, continued to send trading instructions and threatened Clal's employees. The company called the police and the case went to arbitration, with Aroch arguing that had his orders been carried out, he would have made about NIS 100m., the spokeswoman said. In February this year, Meletz finally found in favor of Aroch and awarded him the NIS 95m. Following the disclosure of the tapes, Clal sent a request to the Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday to cancel the ruling. The investment house also argued that despite having "no idea" about the stock exchange, Meletz refused to take professional advice about the case. In addition, the request said Meletz ignored warnings regarding the authenticity of the documents that Aroch had presented. "It couldn't be known if the arbitrator based his decision on fake documents or not," a Clal representative said.