Police probe into Gantz’s former firm handed to Israel Competition Authority
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Police probe into Gantz’s former firm handed to Israel Competition Authority

Investigation into wrongdoing at AI startup Fifth Dimension taken out of police hands due to possibility of law enforcement involvement in suspected wrongly granted contract

Then Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich (L) poses for a picture with former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (R) at a ceremony marking Alsheich's retirement, in Beit Shemesh on November 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich (L) poses for a picture with former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (R) at a ceremony marking Alsheich's retirement, in Beit Shemesh on November 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An investigation into a failed technology firm once led by Defense Minister Benny Gantz was handed over to the Israel Competition Authority over concerns that law enforcement personnel may have been involved in the incident being probed.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the police had requested the change and indicated that while no police officials are currently considered suspects, the possibility exists and a number will likely be called to testify.

At issue is a no-bid police contract won by artificial intelligence firm Fifth Dimension, which Gantz helmed as chairman of the board after retiring as IDF chief of staff in 2015.

According to a State Comptroller’s report released shortly before the April 2019 election, the Israel Police negotiated a NIS 4 million grant with the cybersecurity company without issuing a tender, in violation of acquisition regulations.

Fifth Dimension, the report found, told the Israel Police’s acquisition committee in 2016 that it was founded four years earlier, instead of three; said it had an already-developed product, when it did not; and said that it had five clients — all security organizations — when it did not have any at the time.

In December 2018, after just three years, the company went bankrupt, having burned through millions of dollars from investors.

In February, Acting State Attorney Dan Eldad ordered a criminal probe into Fifth Dimension over allegations of impropriety in its efforts to secure the contract for a pilot project using the firm’s ostensible tech capabilities —in this case AI for analyzing intelligence — after the company executives allegedly provided law enforcement officials with misleading information.

The decision to probe the firm came under fierce criticism by law enforcement and state prosecution officials and Gantz, who is not a suspect in the case, has said that he believed the investigation had a “political aroma.”

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