Police probing defense deal bribery

Police probing defense d

Barak 8 missile 248.88 (photo credit: Georges Seguin )
Barak 8 missile 248.88
(photo credit: Georges Seguin )
Police are investigating suspicions of bribery by Israeli defense establishment officials abroad in the first such probes since the new July 2008 law that makes giving bribes to foreign public servants illegal according to Israeli law. According to Israel Radio, police were considering launching criminal investigations in two such cases. The radio station reported that police began gathering information last month pertaining to four cases, three in India and one in Kazakhstan. In two of the four investigations, police were continuing to check whether a criminal probe is warranted, while the two other cases have already been closed. In one of the closed cases, it was decided that there was insufficient evidence, while in the second case, investigators concluded that the bribery accusations concerned instances that preceded the new law taking effect. On December 9, 2008, Israel became a member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. On March 11, 2009, Israel became the 38th signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. This convention outlaws bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions. According to the OECD, Israel's accession to the convention represents an important commitment to the international fight against corruption. Furthermore, the Israeli government ratified joining the UN Convention Against Corruption in December 2008. Two weeks ago, the OECD published a report examining Israel's implementation of the agreement to stamp out such corruption. Those who compiled the report received information from the Israel Police on cases under investigation, and said that one such probe involved a deal worth some 1.5 billion dollars and two Israeli state-owned companies. The report claimed that according to the allegations, illegal commissions were paid to the tune of between six and nine percent. The allegations appear to be similar to those that surfaced in the Indian media on apparent bribes paid in the sale of Barak missiles to India, a case in which Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael have been accused. The OECD report also mentions a company that was blacklisted by Indian authorities, reported to be Ta'as. The report states that one of the Israel Police probes came to nothing, while in the other case, police were continuing to examining whether to launch an official investigation against "a state-owned company." The OECD investigators were told of two additional cases being looked into by police. Israel Radio has learned that one of them concerns accusations of bribes given in Kazakhstan in a case allegedly connected to the firms Soltam and Ta'as involving a 2007 sale. That investigation also apparently came to nothing, since the alleged bribery occurred before the new law came into effect. In its report, the OECD criticized the Israel Police for beginning to investigate two of the India-related cases too late. The allegations surfaced in the media already in mid-July, 2008 - the same year the law was passed in Israel. Nevertheless, police only began to investigate the cases last month. Police explained to the OECD that the investigators had waited for instructions by the attorney-general regarding the nature of the cases, but the OECD rejected that explanation. The Israeli companies denied the allegations and officials from the state-owned firms told Israel Radio on Wednesday that they were unaware of any police investigations. In response, the Justice Ministry said in a statement that, "police concluded there was no basis for launching an official investigation in two of the cases, while in the two additional cases they decided to press ahead with the probes. At the conclusion of these inquiries it will be decided whether to open full criminal investigations." The police's Lahav 433 unit conducting the investigations declined to comment. Leon Harris contributed to this report