In his first public comments on an investigation into the activities of the high-tech company he managed until its bankruptcy, Blue and White head Benny Gantz said that the fact that an investigation was set to take place did not bother him. “I am perfectly calm,” Gantz told Reshet Bet Thursday. “There was nothing wrong with the way I managed the company. The investigation is due to political pressure on the State Attorney. I welcome any investigation, I am positive that I have nothing to hide.”
Gantz was responding to reports Wednesday that State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit had authorized the investigation into possible illegal activities by the Fifth Dimension (Hameimad Hachamishi) tech firm. The investigation will focus on the period that Gantz was the CEO of the company. Documents revealed by Yisrael Hayom last month show that Israel Police purchased an artificial intelligence system from Fifth Dimension. The purchase was made without a tender, ignoring strictures of the Public Security Ministry, which supervises the activities of the police, and which specifically requires contracts of NIS 50 million or more with outside agencies to be approved by the ministry’s financial department. The police ignored that requirement and made the deal with the company, the documents show.
The documents intensify the questions that have surrounded the relationship between police and the company led by Gantz through the end of 2018, when it went bankrupt. Last March, a report by the State Comptroller focused on similar issues, with police signing contracts with the company without going through a required tender process. Under the contracts, Hameimad Hachamishi sold cybersecurity technology to police. Israel Police was Hameimad Hachamishi’s only customer. The Comptroller’s report featured no fewer than 18 instances in which police purchased goods and services without going through the required tender process, said Shlomo Raz, a spokesperson for the State Comptroller’s Office.
Immediately upon the release of the Comptroller’s report, the Likud demanded an investigation into the deal. State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit said at the time that such an investigation was “unlikely.” Erdan said that in light of the new revelations, an investigation should be opened “today. The truth must come out, and these new documents provide a perfect backdrop for that to happen. There is no reason that the State Attorney should have left this languishing for 10 months. The public needs to know before the elections whether a criminal investigation into Gantz and other suspicious individuals in these incidents is going to be opened,” he added.
Speaking to 103 Radio Thursday, Gantz said that Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud were trying to stir up the matter “which has been investigated already” in order to deflect attention from the prime minister’s own legal woes. “He is trying to change the agenda, which surrounds his trial. Netanyahu has a load of legal issues on his head,” Gantz said.
The investigation will only open after the March 2 elections, and as of now neither Gantz nor Roni Alschich, who was head of Israel Police at the time the deals were made, are suspected of any wrongdoing, the Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday. But Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan questioned that situation. “I would like it if someone would explain to me and the public how the Prosecutor’s Office knows in advance of an investigation whether Benny Gantz is or isn’t guilty of wrongdoing. Isn’t that what an investigation is supposed to determine?” he asked rhetorically.