Mazuz to probe ex-IEC chief Landau

Former chairman of Israel Electric Co. suspected of criminal conduct.

mazuz speaks 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
mazuz speaks 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Police will launch an investigation into possible criminal conduct by Eli Landau, former chairman of the board of the Israel Electric Corporation, the country's sole supplier of electricity, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced on Sunday. Mazuz's announcement did not mention any specific allegations against Landau but an investigative report which appeared in the daily Yediot Aharonot a few months ago alleged that he exploited his position to hand out tenders to his cronies. The most publicized incident that took place under his six-year tenure as IEC chairman was his battle with former national infrastructure minister Yossi Paritzky over who should be given a NIS 2.5 billion contract to supply natural gas to the IEC. Landau insisted on awarding the contract to Eastern Mediterranean Gas (EMG), a partnership between the Merhav Group, headed by Israeli businessman Yossi Maiman, the Egyptian National Gas Corporation and an Egyptian businessman. Paritzky wanted the company to sign the contract with British Gas and its partner, the Palestinian-owned Consolidated Contractors' Corporation. Landau ignored Paritzky and allegedly applied intense pressure to members of the board of directors to get them to vote for EMG. The board ultimately approved his choice. In response, Paritzky announced that he would not appoint Landau to a third three-year term. On the day after Paritzky's announcement, Channel 1 reporter Ayala Hasson broadcast the contents of a tape recorded by private investigator Ya'acov Eshel. On it Paritzky talked with Eshel about trying to frame his political rival Avraham Poraz. According to one theory, Eshel was sent to Paritzky by elements in the IEC who wanted to harm Poraz, then head of the Knesset Economic Committee. Poraz wanted to slash the free electricity benefits given to IEC employees. Maiman later acknowledged that he was responsible for leaking the tapes to Hasson. In an interview with Ma'ariv, he said that during the battle over the natural gas concession, he had hired another private investigator, Meir Palevsky, to find out whether Paritzky's support for BG was linked to blackmail or pressure on him from an outside source. Palevsky apparently got hold of Eshel's tape and released it. The scandal that broke at the time focused on Paritzky, who was drummed out of Shinui for planning to frame Poraz. However, during the criminal investigation into Paritzky's actions, the police also investigated the natural gas affair. On August 26, 2004, Landau was questioned under caution for 12 hours by investigators from the National Fraud Squad in Bat Yam.