Zelekha reports receiving death threats

Yacimovich: Gov't officials can't tolerate man who won't be part of corruption.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Dan area police increased security around the Ramat Gan home of Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha on Monday after the finance ministry whistle blower complained that he and his family members were threatened repeatedly in anonymous phone calls. "First we will take care of Yaron, and after that we will put an end to you and break your arms and legs," an anonymous person said in a voice message left on the cellular phone of Zelekha's wife, Orly, over the weekend, she told Army Radio on Monday. Another message said: "If Yaron does not leave Jerusalem, we will harm him and his family." Insp.-Gen Moshe Karadi confirmed that Zelekha had filed a complaint with police, who then assigned the case to the National Financial Crime Investigation Unit. Karadi said the threats were serious enough to warrant protection for the Zelekha family. In a special Finance Ministry meeting called by Zelekha last month, the accountant-general said "a coalition of beneficiaries illegally helping themselves to state funds has declared war against us, and they have been joined by powerful people." It was unclear whether, the "beneficiaries" were behind the phone calls. A senior Finance Ministry official dismissed Monday the accountant-general's claim that his life was in danger, saying that "no one is threatening Zelekha," and he suggested that Zelekha was exaggerating. However, he did say that ministry funds would be allocated for security personnel around the accountant-general and his home. Despite the personal harassments and threats faced over the past months, Zelekha reaffirmed Monday his determination to root out corruption, end bureaucracy and make the government apparatus more efficient. "The problem of corruption in this country is severe, but I am optimistic because at least now everything is on the table and out in the open and we can deal with the problems", said Zelekha, during a lecture on macroeconomics at the student union of the Academic College in Tel Aviv Monday afternoon. "I am not alone, as many think. There are investigators and supervisors who are taking care of the cases we have been hearing about recently". "It's no secret I'm going through hard times," Zelekha said recently in a special Knesset session, "but I am not deterred, and I will not hide. This is not a secret." "Since I took up the position as accountant-general, I committed myself to enforce the law", said Zelekha. "My people turn over every stone and we will continue to do so. Like inefficiencies, corruption also has a price and we know how to deal with these issues, what we need to do is to overcome the pillars of power." Zelekha declined to comment on the enhanced security following the telephone threats on his life and the lives of his family. MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said the reported death threats against Zelekha were further symptoms of the cancer of public corruption racking Israel. "The latest threats on Zelekha's life are a direct continuation of intentional incitement on the part of the most senior officials in the Israeli government, who are under investigation," she said. "The existence of a man who is not taking part in the corruption keeps them from conducting their [illicit] affairs." Zelekha has amassed several opponents during his tenure, and has clashed with senior officials in his own ministry, who portray him as over-zealous and prone to exaggerating his claims of improprieties on the parts of other public officials. A financial analyst on Channel 10 said the ministry cannot properly operate as many of Zelekha associates will not speak during official meetings for fear that Zelekha will level accusations against them. Zelekha's career took a hit last month when Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson demoted him inside the ministry after the Histadrut labor federation threatened to order a public-sector strike due to the ministry's failure to pay the local authorities' salaries. Hirchson moved after it was revealed that Zelekha had refused an order to provide credit for 20 debt-ridden local authorities, only later to issue credit to local authorities from Bank Otsar Hashilton Hamekomi. Hirchson reportedly would like to dismiss Zelekha altogether, were it not for a state comptroller decision that provides protection barring the dismissal of officials that have made claims of improprieties while an investigation is pending. The pending investigation in this instance earned Zelekha perhaps his most powerful detractor, Olmert, who said he wanted to fire Zelekha a year ago for "improper and subversive activity towards his colleagues." Zelekha was involved in the preliminary investigation into allegations that Olmert tried to tip the balance of the tender for the state's controlling interest in Bank Leumi in favor of a friend when he was acting finance minister. The Justice Ministry reportedly intends to order police to open a full criminal investigation into those allegations as early as this week. Labor MK Avishay Braverman said on Monday morning that Israel was becoming paralyzed by the endless investigations into governmental scandals. "There is structural corruption pervading every place in the state," he said. "Therefore, the problem is already not whether Zelekha is exaggerating here or there - this is a problem in and of itself. The real problem is that the State of Israel is non-functional." Eliad Shraga, an attorney from the Movement for Quality Government, said Monday morning that because of politics, a voice for morality in government had been abandoned to its own fate. "This is another step in the insanity of the State of Israel," he said. "The fact that the system, including Olmert and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, is not standing up to support Yaron Zelekha has made him fair game. Zelekha's blood is on their hands." Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.