Justice Ministry officials let off the hook

Zeiler Commission finds fault with state attorney, who headed the PID until 2003, and his successor for failing to order an investigation.

zeiler 88 (photo credit: )
zeiler 88
(photo credit: )
Although it had sharp words for the four Justice Ministry officials who received warning letters last May, the Zeiler Commission did not recommend taking personal measures against any of them in its final report issued on Sunday. The four who had been singled out by the committee were State Attorney Eran Shendar, Herzl Sbiro, head of the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department (PID), Southern District Attorney Yasca Leibowitz, and a lawyer in her office, Hanna Meged. The committee found fault with Shendar, who headed the PID until 2003, and his successor, Sbiro, for failing to order an investigation, or at least a preliminary one, against Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, despite allegations he had improper ties with the Perinian brothers. It also faulted the PID for failing to give Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi detailed information about the data it had gathered regarding Levy, when Karadi was considering appointing him head of the Southern District's Central Investigations Unit. The commission also criticized the PID for closing the investigation of Levy that it finally launched in January 2005 on the grounds of lack of suspicion instead of lack of sufficient evidence. As for the Southern District Attorney's Office, it criticized Meged for granting police requests over the telephone without any written documentation, and her boss, Leibowitz, for allowing the practice of nondocumentation to flourish. The Zeiler Commission wrote that as early as February 7, 2000, a police informant provided information casting suspicion on the relations between Levy and his close aide, Ch.-Supt. Ruby Gilboa, and the Perinians. Had police looked into the information, they would have discovered other facts such as the involvement of Levy and Gilboa in closing cases concerning the Perinians and suspicious phone conversations between the policemen and the brothers. Furthermore, in January 2001, rogue cop Tzahi Ben-Or, who had been employed as a hit man by the Perinians, provided information to police that appeared to link Levy to the Perinians. Nevertheless, in February 2002, the PID wrote that the informant's material contained no leads, and it was shelved. Shendar and Sbiro, who did not hire lawyers to defend them before the commission, instead wrote personal letters in which they told the panel, "The quality of the information that reached the PID [from the informant,] its weight and the low probability of it leading to allegations, did not justify opening a criminal investigation. They also argued that once Ben-Or disappeared after failing to obtain state protection, the PID could not relate to the partial information he had given the police before his disappearance. The panel accepted their explanations. "We accept the contents of the letters written by Shendar and Sbiro and regard them as being stronger than what we wrote in our letters of caution," it said. Regarding Meged, the commission accepted the explanation she provided after she received the cautionary letter. During her testimony, Meged twice stated she did not remember whether she had given the green light to Levy to withdraw money to pay a ransom of hundreds of thousands of shekels to the thieves who stole NIS 10 million worth of batteries from an army warehouse. After receiving the cautionary letter, however, Meged wrote that she could not have given such approval without first receiving a formal request from the police and without giving the approval in writing. At the same time, she told the committee that such approvals were commonly given by district prosecutors over the phone without any written record being made. The commission criticized the District Attorney's Office for this practice.