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Special Police Committee Says Organized Crime Does Not Exist

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The special police committee appointed to investigate whether organized crime exists in Israel said today it does not. Meanwhile, Inspector General Haim Tavori, who heads the police department, revealed yesterday he has asked Attorney General Aharon Barak to study the possibility of suing Haaretz and its police reporter, Avi Valentin, for libel for the accusation the newspaper has printed against the police.

The police committee, headed by Michael Buchner, chief of the Police Department’s special operational unit, was appointed following a public outcry over the issue of organized crime after a series of articles appeared in Haaretz claiming there is a well-organized group which controls all major crimes in Israel, including drugs, prostitution and the protection racket.

Buchner’s committee concluded that there are no organized crime bosses operating in Israel similar to the system believed existing in the crime syndicate in the United States. But the committee said there are regional bosses in Israel. Tavori and Interior Minister Yosef Burg are studying the report. But there is already public criticism over how the committee reached its conclusions in less than two weeks.

Tavori revealed that he asked the Attorney General to look into libel charges against Haaretz while testifying before the Knesset Interior Committee. He said the libel suit would be based on a charge by Valentin in Haaretz that police officers have revealed information to the underworld and that there is a “double agent” within the department. Tavori said that an investigation by Moshe Tiomkin, commander of the Tel Aviv Police District, found there was no basis for Haaretz’s accusations.

UNDERWORLD INFORMED OF DOUBLE AGENT

In his article, Valentin wrote that Police Sgt. Maj. Shlomo Vaknin, acting as an undercover operative, had been authorized to pretend to accept an offer from one Yosef Harushka, whom he was interrogating of suspicion of extortion. The latter allegedly offered him IL 50,000 if he would doctor the testimony so that there would be no basis for charges, and additional large sums if he would cooperate in the future.

Eight senior officers knew about the arrangement made with Vaknin, Valentin wrote and gave their names. A few days later it became clear that one of them had revealed the information to the underworld that Vaknin was an undercover police agent, the Haaretz correspondent wrote.

Tavori told the Knesset committee that Vaknin had reported the offer to two officers, but they did not even consider it worth referring to their superiors, and Vaknin was told to reject the offer. There was nothing the eight senior officers could have known, or revealed to the underworld, he said.

Commenting last night on Israel television about the libel suit, Gideon Samet, deputy editor of Haaretz said that the paper had additional testimony and documents to back up its reports on the “double agent” affair. Asked if Haaretz still claims that there is a senior officer in the police who is a double agent, Samet answered that he does.

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