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Israeli police ethics questioned

JERUSALEM, Oct. 24 (JTA) — Israeli police are investigating allegations that an Israeli business tycoon ordered three murders.

Word of the police probe came after a court gag order was partially lifted last Friday, revealing that Ofer Nimrodi, publisher of the Ma’ariv newspaper and chief executive officer of the Israel Lands Development Corp., was suspected of ordering the murders.

This case — like the high-profile ongoing investigation of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara — has raised questions about police ethics in investigations.

Both cases have been accompanied by widespread leaks.

In the Nimrodi affair, the Justice Ministry is investigating whether a senior police officer leaked information to Nimrodi about the probe.

In the Netanyahu case, in which the former premier and his wife are facing allegations that they illegally kept gifts received while he was in office, Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami has instructed the police commissioner to determine whether police personnel leaked information to the media about the investigation.

Police, who have not charged the Netanyahus with any crime, questioned them last week after investigators confiscated several boxes of gifts from their home, apartment and storage rooms.

The couple claimed that the media was tipped off about the planned police search of their home, which enabled journalists to stake out the sites.

Over the weekend, the former premier denied the allegations facing him and his wife.

“Sara and I are now going through very difficult days of personal attacks and stinging insults for things we did not do,” Netanyahu told Israel Television on Saturday while attending a party for his 50th birthday.

The probe in the Nimrodi case was launched in August, following accusations made by jailed private investigator Rafi Pridan, who is serving a four-year term for carrying out wiretaps Nimrodi ordered as part of a circulation war with a rival newspaper.

Last year Nimrodi served four months of an eight-month prison term for his role in the affair.

The identities of the alleged murder victims were banned from publication, but reports said one of them was believed to be linked to the eavesdropping scandal.

Police were expected to summon Nimrodi for questioning this week. State Attorney Edna Arbel said investigators would seriously weigh Pridan’s motives for raising the accusations and coming forward only now.

However, Israel Radio reported Sunday that police had additional evidence that corroborated Pridan’s allegations.

Following the partial lifting of the gag order, Nimrodi temporarily resigned from his responsibilities at Ma’ariv and the Israel Lands Development Corporation.

Nimrodi’s lawyer, Dan Avi-Itzhak, issued a statement that his client vehemently denies the allegations against him, adding that Nimrodi is the victim of an extortion attempt by Pridan.

Avi-Itzhak also denounced a televised broadcast last Friday night of footage of police questioning of Nimrodi regarding the wiretapping allegations, during which the publisher is seen swallowing a document after the investigator briefly leaves the room.

Avi-Itzhak said the material was taken out of context, and that his client was getting rid of notes he had made to himself.

He condemned the broadcast, saying such footage should be presented only in a court of law, not on national television.

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