Police: Katsav hired PIs to undermine accusers

Ahead of former president’s appeal, officers probe suspicions that investigators approached witnesses.

katsav appeal 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
katsav appeal 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A major investigation has been opened centering on suspicions that private investigators were hired to covertly gather information that would undermine key witnesses in the trial that led to ex-president Moshe Katsav’s rape conviction.
Police suspect the investigators were hired either by Katsav or his brother Lior, a law enforcement source told The Jerusalem Post this week.
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The use of investigators came as part of preparations for a Supreme Court appeal against Katsav’s conviction, the source said.
Officers from the National Fraud Unit have questioned Katsav, his brother and his son, and have arrested two private investigators. They were released from custody on Sunday night.
A partial media ban prevents publication of the names of the investigators, though Channel 2 reported on Monday that one of them was a former police officer who has four fraud-related criminal convictions.
One of the investigators allegedly approached associates of key witnesses in Katsav’s trial by pretending to be producing a documentary film on “people who changed the world,” Channel 2 reported.
The investigators never disclosed their true identity or motives, the law enforcement source added.
“Their behavior left behind clues and raised suspicions among the people who were approached,” the source said.
An undercover investigation was opened by the National Fraud Unit a month and a half ago into suspicions that included harassment of witnesses and violation of privacy, resulting in the arrest of the manager of a private investigation firm and his employee on July 6.
The two men have reportedly cooperated with police.
“The investigators made contact with the witnesses... and with others who did not testify in the trial, but who have social or familial relations with witnesses.
The investigators presented themselves under false pretenses and set up meetings with them under various pretexts,” police said in a statement.
“The witnesses were recorded by the private investigators during attempts to get them to make statements related to the affair... and [the investigators] attempted to obtain information...while harming their privacy,” police continued.
“Our investigation has found that Moshe Katsav, his family members and associates were involved in this affair. The private investigators received a direct ‘briefing’ from them on which questions to ask,” police said.
One of Katsav’s attorneys, Avigdor Feldman, said on Monday that the use of private investigators was a legitimate and legal step that enables defendants to protect themselves against a “one-sided” police force.
“Harassing a witness is a foggy term,” Feldman said.
In December 2010, Katsav, the state’s eight president, was convicted of rape, sexual harassment, committing an indecent act while using force, harassing a witness and obstruction of justice, in a verdict that sent shockwaves through the country.
The decision of the three-judge panel in the Tel Aviv District Court was unanimous.
“I had no doubt that if and when things would reach judicial inquiry, justice would be seen and done,” the rape victim, “Aleph,” who worked for Katsav when he was tourism minister, said in response to the verdict.
“For a long time I was subject to base and false attacks at the hands of Katsav’s battery of lawyers and public relations experts. The relief is huge and I am glad to seal this part of my life.
Ron Friedman contributed to this report.