In an unusual move, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has removed the head of the prosecution’s financial crimes department from a case involving a company formerly chaired by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Mendelblit, who also serves as acting state prosecutor, decided to entrust the Fifth Dimension case to Deputy State Prosecutor Shlomo Lemberger rather than Dan Eldad.
For a case to be transferred from one prosecution unit to another is extremely unusual, and generally happens only if the first department has mishandled the case.
That, for instance, is why former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan transferred an investigation of Ronel Fisher, a lawyer suspected of bribing a senior police officer, from the Justice Ministry department responsible for probing police misconduct to the Jerusalem district attorney’s office.
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Dan EldadCredit: Justice Ministry spokesperson
It could also happen if the prosecutor overseeing a case requests to be taken off it, but Eldad made no such request.
The choice of Lemberger as Eldad’s replacement is unusual as well, since the deputy state prosecutor doesn’t normally take charge of specific cases.
Mendelblit and Eldad have had a tense relationship ever since the latter was appointed acting state prosecutor by then Justice Minister Amir Ohana. Mendelblit had opposed his appointment, preferring that Lemberger get the job.
Mendelblit declined to say why he removed Eldad from the Fifth Dimension case.
“We don’t comment on ongoing investigations,” his office said in a statement. “But we’ll reiterate what has already been reported: This is a sensitive investigation that was supervised from the start by a senior official. Initially, this was Deputy State Prosecutor Shlomo Lemberger; then the investigation was overseen by the acting state prosecutor at the time, Dan Eldad. When his term in that position expired, responsibility returned to Lemberger, who in any case had overseen the investigation from the start.”
Eldad served as acting state prosecutor for three months earlier this year. In February, two weeks before an election in which Gantz was running for prime minister and shortly after assuming the job, Eldad approved Lemberger’s position that police should open an investigation into Fifth Dimension.
Later, responsibility for overseeing the probe was transferred to the prosecution’s financial crimes department, which Eldad had resumed heading when his term as acting state prosecutor expired.
In April, when Ohana sought to extend Eldad’s term, Mendelblit said this was legally impossible, due to “moral, professional and administrative flaws” in Eldad’s performance. Eldad then accused the attorney general of harassing him because he had started investigating information about Mendelblit’s involvement in the so-called Harpaz case, in which Mendelblit, then military advocate general, was briefly suspected of obstructing justice but was later cleared.
The Fifth Dimension case involves a no-bid contract signed between the company and the police. Company officials are suspected of having won the contract by giving police false information about the company’s situation and how many customers it had. Police ultimately spent four million shekels ($1.2 million) on the company’s unfinished artificial intelligence system.
Though Gantz was chairman of the board at the time, he is not a suspect in the case.
Responsibility for investigating the case was recently transferred from the police to the Israel Competition Authority. Police had requested this move, saying they would have trouble handling the probe given that senior police officers were involved in negotiating and signing the contract.
The prosecution has said that so far, no police officers are suspected of wrongdoing. But their involvement must be scrutinized, and some will also need to testify as witnesses.