Mazuz to probe 'Batteries Affair' cops

Yoram Levy, Reuven Gilboa under scrutiny as per Zeiler report recommendation.

Yoram Levy 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yoram Levy 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
While the future leadership of the Israel Police remained uncertain a day after the publication of the Zeiler Report, at least one of the report's recommendations was already carried out when Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced Monday that he was initiating a criminal investigation into a 1998 incident known during the Zeiler testimony as the "Batteries Affair." Mazuz announced that a criminal investigation would be opened against Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy and Ch.-Supt. Ruby Gilboa, both of whom are suspected of criminal involvement in the incident. The scandal being investigated occurred in 1998, when gas mask batteries were stolen from an IDF warehouse. During the investigation into the theft, Gilboa, then head of the intelligence department in Lachish, called a private investigator hired by the insurance company and allegedly told him that for a fee a source would give the batteries back. Gilboa set up a meeting with the source, who - depending on the testimony - turned out to be either Oded Perinian, leader of a southern crime family, or a source working for the Perinians. Gilboa's superior, Levy, told the private investigator that the police received approval for the transaction from the Southern District Prosecutor's Office, although there are no written records of such an authorization and the prosecutors don't remember giving it. Levy was allegedly present in the corridor when the private investigator handed Perinian the agreed-upon sum of NIS 600,000, which Gilboa allegedly brought to the handover in one or two unmarked bags. Only after the affair became infamous during the Zeiler testimony did Gilboa's wife say she recalled that paperwork documenting the handoff was kept by her husband in their home. The Zeiler Commission findings emphasized that this scandal indicated the "quality" of the relations between Levy and the Perinian brothers, and, although it lay outside of the purview of the original inquiry, discussed the affair extensively in the final report. The scathing comments on the affair included exasperation with inconsistencies in both Levy and Gilboa's testimonies and blasted "excuses" that the handover was urgent because of the possibility of war with Iraq. In fact, Zeiler himself emphasized Sunday, the entire affair occurred months after the Iraqi threat had subsided. Mazuz made the announcement following his first meeting to discuss the commission's findings with Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann. During the meeting, Mazuz emphasized his opposition to the practice of paying ransom fees for the recovery of stolen goods, and the two agreed that Mazuz would establish a special task force to discuss the recommendations made by the Zeiler Report with regard to the District Attorney's Office and the Justice Department's Police Investigative Division.