Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein is likely to file
criminal charges against attorney Leora Glatt-Berkowitz, the
senior Tel Aviv prosecutor who leaked details of a police
investigation into a loan made to the prime minister's family
to Ha'aretz crime reporter Baruch Kra, a senior
judicial source said.
According to the source, Glatt-Berkowitz will be indicted for
giving an unauthorized person information to which she had
access due to her public role. The document she leaked was a
request to investigate businessman Cyril Kern, who lent money
to the Sharon family.
Senior Justice Ministry officials said that Ha'aretz
correspondent Baruch Kra, who received the information, will
not be indicted. "We do not intend to harm freedom of press,"
the officials said.
They explained that it was the team investigating the leak,
not the attorney general, who decided to question Kra. They
added that Kra was quizzed because he was suspected of
obstructing an investigation, and rejected media reports that
said the questioning was intended to scare Kra.
The special Justice Ministry team investigating the leak had
access to records of the phone calls made and received by
Ha'aretz reporter Baruch Kra by court order. The
Justice Ministry refused to confirm the report. As usual in
such cases, the hearing on the order to get the call
information was held in camera and Kra was not
Glatt-Berkowitz, who had previously denied responsibility,
reportedly confessed to being the whistle blower only after
she was shown the phone records.
Kra broke the story of the $1.5 million loan that Sharon's
son, Gilad, got from British businessman Cyril Kern, who
lives in South Africa. He learned of a police investigation
into the loan when Glatt-Berkowitz, the prosecutor in charge
of the case, faxed him a copy of the Justice Ministry's
request for help from South Africa.
Justice Ministry director general Aharon Abramovich was
scheduled to open a hearing for Glatt-Berkowitz, who has been
suspended until the ministry decides what action to take.
In a raucous press conference last week, that pitted
Rubinstein against angry journalists, the A-G said Glatt-
Berkowitz admitted to investigators that she had leaked the
news to reporter Baruch Kra for "ideological reasons."
Israel Television quoted Glatt-Berkowitz as telling
investigators she had leaked the document because her son was
going into the army and she did not want Sharon to be prime
minister while he was serving.
According to Article 117 of the Penal Code, "If a public
servant delivers without lawful authority information he
obtained by virtue of his office to a person not authorized
to receive it . . . he is liable to three years
Glatt-Berkowitz was assigned by the State Attorney's Office
to serve as the Justice Ministry's referent to the police
investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in Sharon's
campaign for the leadership of the Likud in 1999.
A report by State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg about a year
ago revealed that Sharon had received NIS 5.9 million from a
fictitious company in the US called Annex Research. In doing
so, Sharon allegedly violated the Political Party Law that
limits campaign contributions to individual candidates in
internal elections. Had the attorney-general and the state
attorney decided to indict Sharon then, Glatt-Berkowitz would
have been the prosecutor. Sharon reached an agreement to
repay the donation from his own pocket and that was what the
money he received from Kern was used for. No evidence of any
wrongdoing has been uncovered, so far.
During the press conference, Rubinstein insisted that the
controversial investigation of Kra was of minor importance
compared to the "central" fact that the investigation team
had located the source of the leak.
"The investigation justified itself, to my regret, because it
revealed that this attorney leaked [the document] for
ideological reasons that she described in great detail," said
Rubinstein. "The concern that I raised at the beginning of
the investigation regarding intervention in the sensitive
political system proved to be true.
"What would any decent person -- what would any one of you
have felt -- if this happened to him? Think about it. We
weren't that far away from not investigating the leak. I was
really hesitant about ordering it that day. [Had I not], the
attorney would have continued to be the Justice Ministry's
referent to the investigation, and were it to turn into an
indictment, she would have been the prosecutor in the case.
And this after leaking the document because of her
ideological point of view."
Rubinstein said this possibility made her actions "a serious
Furthermore, the leak itself had caused serious damage to the
investigation into Sharon's activities, Rubinstein said,
adding: "We are talking here about an inquiry [the request to
the South African government to question Cyril Kern]. An
inquiry is a procedure in which the person who is to be
questioned knows nothing about and so cannot prepare himself
in advance. There has never before been a leak regarding an
inquiry [i.e. a request to question foreign nationals
abroad]. This has made the investigation much more difficult.
We will go on with the investigation and do what we can. But
this has made it more difficult."
Rubinstein said the investigation team had no choice but to
question Kra. "Everyone knows that when you investigate a
case, you must take testimony from everyone who is relevant
to it," he said.
"Nobody intends to strike at freedom of the press,"
Rubinstein said. "We live in the world of the media, and I
heard all the things that were said [against me] today. But
we have a different responsibility. Our responsibility is to
the law, and if the law is violated, we must investigate."
"No one is trying to terrify the press [by investigating
Kra]," he said. "These are phrases that are good for
headlines, which you like so much. `Terrify,' `rage.' There
is no terror and there is no rage. Simply professional work
which is carried out with calm deliberation. No one is out to
get the media."
Glatt-Berkowitz has worked in the State Attorney's Office's
Department of the Justice Ministry for almost 30 years. She
was a senior prosecutor for many years. Over the years, she
has represented the state in many important criminal
A day later, Leora Glatt-Berkowitz's lawyer, Yehoshua
Reznick, told reporters that his client would have leaked the
story of the investigation if it had involved the chairman of
the Labor Party or the National Religious Party and not just
the chairman of the Likud.
"She leaked the news of the Prime Minister's investigation
out of purely moral and ideological motives, unconnected in
any way to political affiliation," said Reznick.
According to Reznick, Glatt-Berkowitz did not believe her
leak would affect the investigation against Sharon. He added
that "the story about her son being about to enlist in the
army might have been mentioned during her interrogation, but
it was not the main focus."
Reznick was clearly trying to carry out damage control.
The quote attributed to the district prosecutor regarding her
son and the fact that she did not want Sharon in office was
extremely damaging, since it attributed the motive of seeking
to illegally influence the outcome of the election.
In response to Reznick's comments, the Justice Ministry
issued a press statement charging that the defense attorney
had "made `improvements' in the unequivocal confession of the
district prosecutor under suspicion. No word-laundering will
change her confession, according to which Glatt-Berkowitz
leaked the document for ideological-political reasons."
Glatt-Berkowitz first presented the file regarding the loan
on September 29, 2002 to the Attorney General, said the
Justice Ministry statement. Rubinstein immediately gave his
approval to investigate the matter, which led to the request
to question Cyril Kern in South Africa. At no point did the
district prosecutor complain that the investigation was
taking too long.
"The temptation to publish quotes from Glatt-Berkowitz's
statement is great, but we cannot do so," said the Justice
Ministry statement. "We will emphasize only that her words
were unequivocal. She leaked the document for political-
Meanwhile according to a sworn affidavit published by
Ha'aretz, Cyril Kern arranged for a foreign trust to
provide Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's son, Gilad, with a loan
of $1.5 million without inquiring why he needed the money or
making any conditions regarding its utilization or purpose,
Kern reportedly wrote the affidavit on January 14. In the
affidavit, Kern said the loan had been an act of friendship
and that he had not asked for or received any benefits in
"I have never asked for any assistance from the prime
minister, nor would I have contemplated ever doing so or
receiving any benefit from him, over and above our deep
friendship which goes back over 50 years," wrote Kern. He
accused the Labor Party of "using me and the Republic of
South Africa likewise, in a non-democratic attempt to
influence the Israeli elections."
Gilad Sharon asked him for a business loan in October 2001,
wrote Kern. Sharon's son had taken out a loan from Bank Leumi
in Sderot to repay the illegal contributions, reportedly
using the family estate, Sycamore Farm, as collateral. When
the bank informed Gilad Sharon that the farm was already
mortgaged and could not be used to secure the loan, Sharon
asked Kern for a loan. On January 15, 2002, the money reached
the account of Omri and Gilad Sharon at Bank Discount in Tel
Aviv. It had been transferred to Israel from Kern's account
in Austria, via JP Morgan in New York.
Kern wrote that the only condition he made was that the money
be paid back as quickly as possible, with a 3 percent
interest rate compounded annually.