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26 Shevat 5763 - January 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Criminal Charges Expected Against Prosecutor
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

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 informed.

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 imprisonment."

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 crime."

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 cases.

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- ideological reasons."

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 return.

"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.


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