Police scold media over ITA coverage

Matza suspends himself to clear name, agrees to additional remand of one day.

yaakov matza 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yaakov matza 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On a day on which police expressed frustration with the press coverage of the Israel Tax Authority scandal, over one dozen suspects were questioned for a fifth day Sunday and negotiations were held to determine the status of at least three lead figures in the affair. Police sent out an angry missive to reporters Sunday, saying that the affair "is a sensitive investigation" and elaborating that "Israel Police intends to continue its policy that has been in place since the investigation was made public, a policy of limited and careful speaking with the goal of not injuring specific people or institutions and passing information to the public." Police spokesmen emphasized that they were unwilling to confirm details of the case beyond those released through official channels, and that any reporter publishing information beyond that would be doing so "at their own risk".
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  • Analysis: So how bad is the corruption? Police said Sunday that the investigation was still underway, and that publication of details beyond those released could damage their case. Meanwhile, the fifteen National Fraud Squad teams looking into different aspects of the allegations against ITA officials and businessmen continued with their interrogations at their Bat Yam offices. Under the pressure of investigation, businessman Kobi Ben Gur told detectives that he felt unwell. Taking no chances, police called off Ben-Gur's questioning for the day and sent him to Tel Hashomer Medical Center. Ben-Gur underwent a series of tests to determine whether he was suffering from a medical problem, the results of which were not expected to be released until Monday morning. Two suspects, both high-ranking officials in the ITA joined the ranks of Shula Zaken, Eitan Rob and Galit Simhon Sunday after being released from prison to house arrest. Gidi Bar Zakai, the ITA's assistant director for professional issues and Shmuel Bobrov, the assistant director for manpower both were released to 15 days of house arrest after hearings before the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court held in abstentia. Both Bobrov and Bar Zakai will be restricted from entering ITA offices for another 30 days following the conclusion of the house arrest. But ITA head Jackie Matza, whose remand was supposed to end on Sunday night agreed to a one-day extension of his remand. Matza will ultimately be released at 6 p.m. Monday after almost a week in prison. The ITA head was brought in by investigators for a conversation between him and Zaken, after detectives discovered that the two had offered differing accounts of the same incidents. Police hoped that by staging a conversation between them, detectives could gain insight into which, if either, of the stories was true. One of the reasons that Matza's remand was extended was to allow for police to hold a similar "confrontation" between Matza and Ben-Gur, who is the central suspect in the case. Matza sent a letter to Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson Sunday saying that he was shocked to hear the allegations against him, and expressed particular surprise at the claims that his appointment was carried out to satisfy the interests of individual businessmen. Matza also expressed support for Hirchson's appointment of a temporary replacement for Matza at the ITA. After Matza's release, he is expected to spend 16 days under house arrest, following which he will be barred from entering ITA offices for another 30 days.