The State’s Attorney’s Office is reportedly considering advising the attorney general to probe potential criminal ties between the police and the Fifth Dimension tech firm, which was headed by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz before going bankrupt last year.
Gantz is himself not a suspect, Channels 13 and 12 both reported Wednesday.
State prosecutors in November began poring over evidence on potential criminal ties between police and the Fifth Dimension tech firm, which was owned by Gantz and went bankrupt last year.
According to the unsourced report by Channel 13, the probe will look at elements within Fifth Dimension that allegedly made misrepresentations to the police, and will examine whether the relationship falls under the legal category of “obtaining something by fraud.”
The probe is expected to begin sometime after the March 2 elections, according to reports.
Unnamed Likud officials questioned the timing, according to Channel 12, angry that the investigation is being delayed until after Israelis go to the polls. But unnamed legal experts told the network that the decision to potentially open an investigation was made some four weeks before the election, when an announcement of a probe could be construed as political interference.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose trial on graft charges will begin March 17, responded to Wednesday’s report by saying it was “a sad day for the State of Israel.”
The comment appeared to be a dig at Gantz, Netanyahu’s main political rival, who said the exact same thing when the premier was indicted in November on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and has dismissed the charges as a witch hunt.
On Saturday, Channel 12 asked Gantz about Fifth Dimension, and he said he had no problem with an investigation into the conduct of the company.
“I have no problem with an inquiry into the issue of Fifth Dimension. This whole spin is a lie from the first word until the last,” Gantz said. “I’m an honest man. I don’t have three indictments [filed against me].”
Gantz, a former military chief of staff, retired from the army in 2015 and got involved in a number of business ventures, including as chairman of Fifth Dimension, which developed artificial intelligence solutions for law enforcement agencies.
Wednesday’s reports appeared to contradict a Channel 13 report from September that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had ordered a new probe into Fifth Dimension.
While Gantz himself is not under suspicion of wrongdoing, that report said Mandelblit’s office requested information from the state comptroller regarding NIS 4 million granted to the firm for a pilot project with police, after company executives allegedly provided police with misleading information, as well as a NIS 50 million contract supposedly granted without the issuing of a tender, in violation of acquisition regulations.
Mandelblit reportedly gave the September order despite the state comptroller having found no evidence that criminal offenses were committed when he looked into the matter six months earlier.
According to the state’s response to a High Court of Justice petition demanding a criminal investigation, the state comptroller in late October provided the Justice Ministry with materials relating to the allegations, which are currently being studied.
In March, the State Comptroller’s Office said the Israel Police had negotiated a contract with the cybersecurity company, headed at the time by prime ministerial candidate Gantz, without issuing a tender, in violation of acquisition regulations.
Then-state comptroller Yosef Shapira said in the report, which detailed alleged deficiencies in the police’s acquisition process, that Fifth Dimension presented law enforcement with false information about its operations.
He also said then-police commissioner Roni Alsheich was the driving force behind the project and ordered negotiations be held with Fifth Dimension, whose executives featured several former Israel Police brass.
The company went bankrupt in December 2018 because the US government sanctioned its largest investor, Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Gantz in January hinted he may file a lawsuit against Netanyahu over the premier’s unproven claim that Gantz personally pocketed millions at the expense of the public.
In his speech accompanying his request that the Knesset grant him immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases, a request later withdrawn, Netanyahu argued that law enforcement authorities were discriminating against him and failing to investigate other politicians suspected of wrongdoing.
“There are people who committed grave offenses but have automatic immunity for life,” Netanyahu claimed. “They are simply on the right side of the media and the left. Benny Gantz — who took NIS 50 million [$14.5 million] of public money without a tender and pocketed NIS four million [$1.16 million] — hasn’t even been investigated.”
Netanyahu’s claim cast the details of Gantz’s alleged wrongdoing as fact despite authorities reportedly not regarding Gantz as a suspect in the case and only probing the cybersecurity company he owned, not him — potentially opening the door for the Blue and White chief to file a libel lawsuit. Additionally, the NIS 50 million deal reportedly never materialized.