Top lawyer arrested in massive police bribery scandal
Ronel Fisher allegedly received secret info from investigators, handed it over to suspected criminals in exchange for cash
Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
Police on Thursday arrested a senior lawyer who allegedly sold criminal suspects information regarding their cases for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The lawyer, named on Sunday as Ronel Fisher, is also suspected of transferring money to police officers in exchange for the termination of his defendants’ investigations.
A police representative who mediated between the lawyer, the police and the suspected criminals was arrested as well.
Fisher was apprehended in a sting operation after he was handed a suitcase loaded with NIS 150,000 (about $43,875) by Alon Hassan, the Ashdod Port union leader. Hassan, who is under investigation for his alleged role in a port corruption ring, was collaborating with police during the time of the sting operation. All the bills were marked by police.
Hassan was arrested in May, along with 14 other suspects, during a police raid on the Ashdod port. Authorities said that their investigation revealed a suspected network of port workers who would use their influence to secure port contracts for private companies controlled by associates, who would in turn kick back a share of their profits to the workers. The suspects were detained on various charges including abuse of office, bribery, breach of trust, extortion, fraud, and money-laundering.
The arrests were the result of a year-long undercover operation.
Hassan claimed during his investigation that had been approached by the lawyer before the arrests. The lawyer told Hassan he could “help make all of your problems disappear,” the Ynet news site reported. He then informed Hassan that a police investigation into the ports was taking place and demanded bribes in exchange for further details. The lawyer later notified Hassan of his upcoming arrest.
Hassan decided to collaborate with police’s Lahav 443 special investigations unit after he became suspicious that the lawyer, aside from providing him with information, was also handing police incriminating evidence against him, possibly in order to receive additional bribes in the future.
Fisher is said to have close ties with a number of senior police officials, and in the past had even represented several of them in court. However, it is still unclear whether the lawyer ever received bribes from any of the senior police officials.
Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino on Friday dismissed claims of widespread corruption within the police and said he was not concerned over the investigation.
“I recommend that everyone, without exception, not to be moved by the bombastic headlines, but to wait for the findings,” Danino said. “There will be large gaps in my estimation between the headlines and the actual findings.”
However, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that “there is no alternative but for the senior members in the [police] organization to draw serious conclusions from this case,” Channel 10 reported.