Former judge Dan Cohen was sentenced to six years imprisonment and a NIS 10 million fine on Monday for accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust while serving as a director of the Israel Electric Corporation. The sentence, which was part of a plea bargain agreement between Cohen and the prosecution, also included a charge of obstruction of justice relating to Cohen's flight from Israel to escape justice in 2005.
Cohen admitted to accepting a one million euros bribe from the German company Siemens while negotiating for the purchase of Siemens equipment in his capacity as an IEC director. He also acknowledged concealing his connection to the sellers in an IEC land purchase deal.
Cohen, 71, has been in prison in Israel since his extradition on March 15 from Peru, where he spent seven-and-a half-years on the run. Peru and Israel do not have an extradition treaty. The judge reduced Cohen's sentence by the three months he spent in a Peruvian prison awaiting extradition and the time he has been confined in Israel since his extradition.
The prosecution refused to count the 18 months Cohen spent in Peru under house arrest towards time served. If he receives a third off his sentence for good behavior, Cohen could be freed in another three years and three months.
"There is almost no person or business in Israel that does not need the [IEC's] services,” wrote Justice Haled Kabub in his sentence “The acceptance of bribes by such a senior executive - out of pure greed, extreme in its ugliness - is cynical exploitation and betrayal of the entire public."
Cohen will have to pay NIS 5 million of the fine within one year. If he does, the state will ask Panamanian authorities to release funds he has in a currently-frozen account in that country.
Cohen pleaded guilty to pocketing a bribe of one million euros during a hotly-contested bidding war between the Siemens Corporation and General Electric for the sale of three gas-powered turbines to IEC for NIS 370 million. He also pleaded guilty to breach of trust for failing to report to the IEC Board of Directors that he had a personal relationship with Ezra Harel, the owner of Rogosin Industries, at a time when the IEC was considering the purchase of land from Rogosin.
As chairman of the IEC's Asset Committee in 1966, Cohen warned the IEC Board of Directors that Israel could find itself without a regular supply of electricity if the company didn’t purchase the Rogosin land for a new power station. The deal cost the Israeli taxpayer approximately NIS 62.5 million and Cohen received millions of dollars for promoting the sale, according to the original indictment. However, both the charge of bribery in connection with the Rogosin land affair and a charge of falsifying corporate documents were removed from the amended indictment that served as the basis for the plea deal.
Today, 16 years after the land was purchased, the power station has still not been built.
Kabub wrote that if the full charges in the Rogosin affair had remained in the indictment - and been proved - Cohen's sentence would have reached 10 years in total. The judge added that the sentencing of public officials convicted of serious crimes had hardened in recent years, in line with an amendment of the law in 2010 that increased the maximum sentence to 10 years in prison from seven. Regarding Cohen’s argument that he deserved a shorter sentence since his crimes were committed before the law was amended, Kabub said that Cohen only had himself to blame since he was the one who fled justice.
The judge also stressed that the breach of trust was particularly severe in Cohen’s case as he had served for a short time as a district court judge and was also a well-known and successful lawyer. "Cohen did not lack anything; he took the bribes for himself only out of greed," wrote Kabub.
The state will seize NIS 4 million of Cohen's assets and he will pay a fine of NIS 6 million. The plea bargain contained no obligation on Cohen's part to reveal any co-conspirators in the case.
Cohen will now face civil damage suits filed against him by the IEC.