Officer accused of helping killer flee

Asst.-Cmdr. may have smuggled suspected murderer Ben Or out of country.

Yoram Levy 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yoram Levy 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a hostile and at times heated testimony, Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, head of the Southern District's Central Investigative Unit (CIU) and accused of misleading a murder investigation to cover for the suspects, appeared before an inquiry committee on Tuesday and tried to clear his name. Levy told the Zeiler Committee, set up to investigate the police handling of the Pinhas Buhbut and Tzahi Ben Or murder investigations, that his predecessor - Asst.-Cmdr. Amir Gur - and two other CIU officers "dragged their feet" and distorted the investigation to cover up for their mishaps. Levy further accused Gur - the current deputy head of the Yarkon district - of personally smuggling suspected murderer Tzahi Ben Or out of the country to help cover up his mishandling of the investigation. "Someone out of the three officers helped him [Ben Or] skip the country," Levy told the committee headed by former District Court Judge Vardi Zeiler. "A lot of people had an interest in making sure that their mishaps would never be discovered." Levy's testimony turned hostile at one point after he raised his voice at the committee members. He was reprimanded by Zeiler, who told him to calm down and to talk to the committee with respect. Oded and Sharon Perinian - suspected crime bosses in the south - were indicted in October for the 1999 murder of Buhbout - a known underworld figure. The Perinians, the indictment claims, allegedly hired Ben-Or - a Jerusalem policeman - to shoot Buhbot as he lied in a hospital bed recovering from a previous attempt on his life. Ben-Or later fled the country after police and the State Prosecutor's Office failed to reach a state's witness agreement with him. He was found murdered in Cancun, Mexico in December 2004. Levy, who was appointed head of the CIU in 2003 despite Gur's objection, said that one of the first things he did in his new post was to transfer the Ben Or file to Moshe Karadi - head of the Southern District at the time and now the police commissioner. The file, Levy said, was found in a small closet at CIU headquarters and had classified notes in it that were not signed or addressed leading him to suspect there had been a negligent mishandling of the case. "When you find a case like that after entering a new job there is no point of even looking at it," he explained. Levy said there was no doubt that his predecessor -Gur - and other officers in the CIU deliberately hid the file to prevent the investigation from proceeding. On Sunday, Gur told the committee that Levy maintained an inappropriate relationship with the Perinan brothers and assisted them in evading criminal charges. Levy rejected the accusations and said that Gur and other officers were only interested in dirtying his name due to a professional rivalry between them. Levy also refused to publicly respond to allegations that he had a close relationship with the Perinans and spoke with the committee about the nature of his relationship behind closed doors. On Sunday, Gur said that a subordinate of Levy's was too scared to investigate the Perinans since he said he had seen them "come and go" at Levy's home.