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Monday, March 25, 2013

Former Israeli judge Dan Cohen jailed until end of bribery trial

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Gilad Neutal on Monday remanded former judge Dan Cohen to custody until the end of his trial on charges of bribery.

In his ruling, Neutal mentioned Cohen’s audacity, sophistication and disregard for the law and said that if Cohen were released, there was a real risk he would influence witnesses and flee custody using hidden funds.

Cohen – who allegedly accepted bribes to promote the interests of the German multinational company Siemens with the Israel Electric Corporation, which he served as a board member – remained silent and looked away from the bench as Neutal read the ruling. His family and media advisors were in the courtroom. Eitan Maoz, Cohen’s attorney, refused to comment or say whether he planned to appeal.

Neutal noted that for seven years between August 2005 and this month, Cohen lived in Peru, a country that does not have an extradition treaty with Israel, and avoided returning home despite knowing he was vital to an investigation. He rejected Cohen’s claim in the previous court hearing that during the seven years he spent in Peru “he always intended to return to Israel.”

“The very existence of such a situation, in which the defendant lived for seven years in a country with which, as is claimed, Israel has no extradition treaty and knew he was vital to an investigation, yet did not return to Israel and came back only when his extradition was imminent, is sufficient grounds for the above-mentioned remand,” Neutal said.

Neutal also said Cohen, who owned of several foreign companies with bank accounts abroad, likely has hidden wealth that might enable and encourage him to flee justice.

“In light of the sophistication and audacity with which the defendant committed the crimes alleged in the indictment, there is reasonable likelihood that the defendant has additional hidden funds available to him,” he said. “These funds could constitute an incentive for the defendant to evade his trial, as he avoided coming to Israel in the past. They could also help him flee the country any way he chooses for an extended stay abroad and be able to support himself anywhere he might choose.”

It did not help Cohen’s case, Neutal said, that he had been guilty of breach of trust in the past, including when he violated an explicit prohibition against providing information about the ongoing investigation to his friend Israel Fogiel.

The defense attorney Maoz had noted that defendants in some of the most serious bribery cases in Israeli history – including the Holyland, Tax Authority, Avraham Hirschson, Aryeh Deri, Shlomo Benizri and Zvi Bar trials – had not been remanded throughout the proceedings. But Neutal dismissed this argument, saying that none of the defendants in these cases had fled the country until their extraditions were imminent.

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