Comptroller: Police failing in economic war on mob

Report says underworld assets not frozen; public security minister: Tax Authority "missing link."

abutbul smiling 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
abutbul smiling 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
The Israel Police is largely failing to wage an all-important economic war on organized crime, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said in a report released on Wednesday, which examined efforts by law enforcement to battle the mob. Lindenstrauss lamented the absence of a functioning witness protection program three years after the government decided to establish one, noting that it was unreasonable to expect police to act alone to secure witnesses of mob crimes. Lindenstrauss praised police for arresting many senior mob figures from six crime organizations between 2004 and 2008, and noted that police Central Units "systematically mapped out the human infrastructure of all the crime organizations they investigated." But police were failing to chart and move against the assets of most crime organizations, the report added. "Not one [police] unit mapped out all of the assets of crime organizations, as required according to goals set by the [former] police commissioner [Shlomo Aharonsky in 2004]. Assets of crime organizations have not been revoked in any way, not through seizures or their return to victims [of crime], and not through confiscations by the Tax Authority," the report said. "Despite the emphasis placed on economic attack in the goals set by the police commissioner in 2004, a structured economic attack has not taken place. Furthermore, when economic information was collected, the gathering process was not systematic but [limited to] pinpoint [operations], on the sidelines of criminal investigations. As a result, not a single economic infrastructure of a crime organization was damaged," the report added. During a meeting with journalists on Wednesday, hours before the report was released, Minister for Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch said he "accepts the comments of the comptroller," adding that "there is much to do improve dealings with organized crime." He stressed, however that full cooperation with the Tax Authority was lacking, adding that "without financial and economic action, the branch [of organized crime] will not be cut off and its leaves will continue to grow." "The Tax Authority is the weak link. This isn't the way to fight organized crime," he said. "Arrests [of senior members] looks good in the media, but when you take care of some problems and not others, the [main] problem remains." In a statement released on Wednesday, the Israel Police said it accepted the report's findings, but mainly stressed the praise police received for their work against crime bosses. It added that as of 2008, police had declared the existence of 16 organized crime outfits in Israel, and that the heads of 12 of those organizations were behind bars.