Lieberman rattles police brass by attending public security minister's swearing in

FM target of money laundering investigation.

lieberman aharonovitch 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
lieberman aharonovitch 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
Senior police officers were unnerved by the unexpected arrival of Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman at a swearing-in ceremony for the new public security minister on Wednesday in Jerusalem, a former senior law enforcement figure told The Jerusalem Post. Lieberman, the target of a long-running police investigation into allegations of money laundering, has an acrimonious relationship with the Israel Police, and accuses it of targeting him in a political witch-hunt. National Fraud Unit investigators are examining a Cypriot bank account registered under the name of Lieberman's daughter Michal, for evidence of money laundering involving millions of shekels. Lieberman explained his presence at the swearing-in ceremony for new Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovitch, of Israel Beiteinu, by saying that he had chosen to accompany all of the ministers from his party during their inaugurations, but that claim was not taken seriously by police brass, the source said. "There was a very bad atmosphere during the ceremony. I've never seen an atmosphere that bad. It was weird. Not one senior officer felt comfortable or natural in Lieberman's presence. His arrival was a message aimed against the police," the source said. "Lieberman could have restrained himself and not come. It was a vitriolic move. By arriving, Lieberman was saying: 'I am here, stomping in your ground.' "I don't remember anything like this. I've never seen the head of a party arrive at a ministerial inauguration before," the source added. The source said that unlike his boss, former Israel Police deputy inspector-general Aharanovitch was highly regarded within senior police ranks. "Aharanovitch is an excellent man. This is the first time someone who held the rank of commander will have ministerial oversight of the police. In many ways this is a colleague who has come to manage other colleagues. Many senior officers have worked with him. It's a special situation," the source said. It was up to Aharanovitch to send out a clear message to the police early in his term indicating that he would pursue his own independent, professional agenda that would be free from the ongoing war between Lieberman and the police, the source said. "Aharanovitch has his own world view. I know him. He loves the police and very much wants it to succeed. He knows the system well. He must set his political and professional worlds apart. He can transmit a clear message in the coming days to show that he draws a line between politics and the [law enforcement] system," the source said. "The coming days will tell if he can send the right message that will cause the unpleasant atmosphere to evaporate." The outgoing minister, Avi Dichter, was "not seen as someone who succeeded in a huge way, even though the police did good things under his watch. But Dichter made many mistakes, and fell into every hole possible along the way," the source said. Beyond the psychological confrontation between Lieberman and the police on Wednesday, the Israel Beiteinu chairman has no power to influence the ongoing investigation against him, former senior National Fraud Unit investigator Dep-Cmdr. (ret.) Boaz Guttman told the Post. "I know the head of the Economic Crimes Department at the National Fraud Unit, Dep.-Cmdr. Yoram Na'aman, who is leading the investigation into Lieberman. Lieberman can't do thing to influence the investigation," Guttman said. "Public security ministers do not have access to National Fraud Unit case materials. Most of detectives at the unit are like me. When they entered the unit, they knew it was likely they would make lots of enemies through their work, who would seek to settle accounts with them later. They know they will not reach the rank of inspector-general," Guttman said. "Even the police commissioner cannot influence investigations. I can say that after 30 years of working with commissioners," he said. Guttman said Aharanovitch was a "professional, more so than his predecessors," who would not dream of risking his career to interfere with the investigation on behalf of Lieberman. "Neither the public security minister, nor his aides, nor his legal advisers have access to National Fraud Unit materials. Any attempt to access these would certainly result in an indictment," Guttman said. "There is documented evidence from banks in Israel and abroad being gathered against Lieberman, and nothing he can do will stop that process." The National Fraud Unit is expected to call Lieberman in for questioning in the coming weeks or months.