A huge corruption scandal rattling Israel Police and Israel’s public prosecution netted its first conviction Wednesday, when an officer involved in the affair signed a plea bargain in exchange for cooperation with investigators and the hope for a commuted sentence.
Former police superintendent Eran Malka, of the Lahav 433 anti-corruption investigation unit, was convicted by the Jerusalem District Court for his role in the ongoing case.
He is expected to be sentenced to several years in prison for providing sensitive information in exchange for hundreds of thousands of shekels to Ronel Fisher, a high-profile attorney at the center of a web of intrigue that has enmeshed multiple suspects.
As the leader of the alleged corruption ring, Fisher was the target of a year-long investigation detailing a number of charges, mostly dealing with his facilitating the transfer of sensitive legal documents between police and criminal suspects.
He was arrested in June 2014 for allegedly selling confidential information to Ashdod Port union leader Alon Hassan about a corruption case against the port. He also allegedly acted as a bribe-middleman, transferring suitcases of cash from his clients to police, so that investigations could be dropped.
His trial opened Wednesday, also at the Jerusalem District Court.
The affair has yielded multiple indictments against all those involved in the affair: Malka, who was convicted Wednesday; Ruth David, a former Tel Aviv district attorney and Fisher associate; Shai Baras, former CEO of the National Roads Company of Israel; brothers Yosef and Aviv Nehemias, two contractors; and Yair Biton, a client of Fisher and the head of B. Yair group, a publicly traded contracting firm that is under a separate investigation for its links to the Abergil crime syndicate.
As part of his plea bargain, Malka assisted police in sniffing out another high-profile suspect, former Israel Police major general Bruno Stein, whose involvement in the case was cleared for publication Wednesday morning.
Police charge that the recently retired Stein accepted free flights abroad with accommodation from Fisher, as well as the promise of a future high-ranking position in the B. Yair group.
Investigators accuse Stein of corruption, fraud, violating the public’s trust and other crimes, and placed him under house arrest for three days on Tuesday.
Stein, former commander of Israel’s Central District, including Tel Aviv, was considered a candidate to replace Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino until he resigned suddenly in 2014 following the publication of a photo showing him together with Fisher at a party for Fisher’s daughter.
Fisher had been under investigation on suspicion that he had passed information to criminal suspects regarding their cases in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and for transferring money to police officers in exchange for the termination of his defendants’ investigations.
One contractor whose name is still under gag order admitted to police that he paid Fisher NIS 2 million ($523,000) for information regarding a police case against him. He has also revealed additional information on other corrupt high-ranking law enforcement officers, police said.
In exchange for his testimony, the contractor will completely avoid prosecution in the case.
Malka spoke with the press after his arrest in May, saying that his becoming a state’s witness “is not on the agenda.
“I took responsibility for my actions,” he said. “I will pay the price, and with great bravery. There is no choice.”
But last week it was revealed by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court that Malka would in fact turn state’s evidence in exchange for financial considerations, which will allow him to keep his police pension and avoid fines in his sentence.
Under his agreement, Malka will serve time in jail. The Police Internal Investigations Department is demanding a 7-10 year sentence, while his attorneys, Ofer Bartel and Dov Gilad Cohen, are seeking three to four years’ incarceration.
Israel’s police force has recently been wracked by a series of high-profile corruption and sexual harassment scandals.
Those included Deputy Commissioner Nissim Mor, who was suspended in January after allegations emerged that he had sexually assaulted a subordinate officer; former Jerusalem district police chief Nissan “Niso” Shaham, dismissed in late 2013 over allegations of sexual harassment, breach of trust, fraud and indecent acts; and top anti-corruption police official Menashe Arviv, who resigned in 2014 amid allegations that he had received thousands of dollars and other assistance from a rabbi accused of corruption.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.