The Lieberman probe

There’s no denying that this is an inordinately lengthy probe, never mind its ultimate outcome.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
We are told that the attorney-general is now poring over documents from investigations into Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s business practices going back to 1997. The aim is to decide whether to indict him on a series of charges – among them money laundering and fraud and breach of trust, emanating from illegal receipt of funds and concealing financial activity from state authorities.
There are varying versions of how long this investigation has been underway. According to some, the police had already targeted Lieberman once he quit his post as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office over 14 years ago. He then established two trading companies, one homed in Cyprus.
The second version claims that police trained its sights on Lieberman only in 1999, meaning that the investigation is merely 13 years of age. The most minimal estimate, the one the police proffers, is that it was on Lieberman’s tail just since 2001.
Regardless of which account we subscribe to, there’s no denying that this is an inordinately lengthy probe, never mind its ultimate outcome.
We certainly have no way of judging whether Lieberman is guilty or innocent, and we have no intention of weighing in on this issue one way or the other. Yet what should be of interest to every citizen is the spectacle of what is incontrovertibly a police project of exceptionally excessive duration, directed doggedly at a given individual, but with mutating accusations against him.
It needs to be noted that big guns were aimed at Lieberman for supposed infractions of campaign-financing regulations by his party Israel Beiteinu. That case evaporated along the way but the investigators changed their tack and began looking for other offenses.
For a time bribery charges hung over Lieberman’s head, but these too vanished. That’s when investigators homed in on companies that are no longer under Lieberman’s name but which the police maintain he owns and operates clandestinely.
Much too close for comfort, the above resemble fishing expeditions, even if in the end they net a catch. Moreover, unseemly methods were employed over the years in the course of this inquiry.
It isn’t just our say-so. Already back in 2003, then-attorney- general Elyakim Rubinstein, now a Supreme Court justice, published a scathing report exposing police misconduct. Rubinstein recommended removing head of the Police Investigations Unit Moshe Mizrahi from his post. He charged that Mizrahi brazenly extended permissions he obtained to bug politicians’ phones and illicitly eavesdropped on their conversations and on those of any member of their family, including children.
Mizrahi, now seeking a slot on Labor’s next slate of Knesset candidates, was further accused of transcribing those conversations, as well as other material, and hoarding everything for undisclosed future use – including what by no stretch of the imagination had anything to do with the investigation purportedly in progress. Mizrahi’s foremost victim was Lieberman, but he wasn’t alone, something which should send additional shivers down all liberal spines.
Rubinstein said that his findings made his hair stand on end: 70 percent of what Mizrahi had transcribed of Lieberman’s conversations and faxes was wholly irrelevant to what he was ostensibly investigating. Rubinstein described himself as “sickened to see the nature of the material” Mizrahi saw fit to keep, after he unlawfully transcribed what shouldn’t have been eavesdropped upon. Mizrahi then illegally secreted these illegal transcripts.
Police transcribers under Mizrahi’s command balked when asked to record conversations of spouses, youngsters, elderly parents, doctors, service-providers, journalists, friends and casual acquaintances. Transcripts of idle chatter and intimate talk remained in Mizrahi’s safe, some bound in files labeled “political.”
This is only part of what ought to engender great unease among all who cherish the rights of even those politicians whom they don’t necessarily relish.
No matter how Lieberman’s particular saga eventually evolves, it should lead to clear legal curtailments on the length of time in which our law-enforcers can pursue a given suspect or case. It cannot be that the police and prosecution would usurp over a decade of anyone’s life because of hunches, even if said hunches are in the long run borne out after all.