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Suicide of commander Efraim Bracha and "collapse" of the Israel Police

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Head of the National Fraud Investigations Unit Efraim Bracha committed suicide after a small online news outlet published a series of reports, pointing out evidence of his corruption and indicating that an undercover investigation was under way. The most dramatic in a large series of senior Israel Police commanders departures under clouds of corruption, it was described by media as "collapse" of the Israel Police. As is the case in other nations, the United States included, widespread police corruption is impossible absent corruption of the justice system in general and the judiciary in particular.

Key figure in current corruption scandals - Commander of the Israel Police National Fraud Investigations Unit Efraim Bracha - committed suicide on the night of July 2, 2015. He had served as the head of the Special Investigation Team in Prime Minister Rabin's assassination, which was largely seen as perverted, and it appeared that the justice system was going to avoid his investigation and incrimination at all costs.

The State of Israel has been rocked over the past year by what seems like a never-ending stream of corruption scandals. The essence of most cases is widespread bribing affairs involving senior government officials. However, the most recent affairs went further, with allegations including in the trading by senior law enforcement officers and judges in criminal investigations and criminal litigation cases with the suspects/defendants. [i] In response, the justice system appears to be circling the wagon, trying to save whatever public trust remains.

Suicide of commander Efraim Bracha

Bracha headed the National Fraud Unit of the Israel Police, a job that can be approximately compared to FBI Assistant Director for Criminal Investigations. Already in "kabbalist" Pinto case, there was plenty of evidence that Bracha accepted bribes for inside information regarding various investigations. In an unusual move, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch wrote a letter, supporting Rabbi Pinto's allegations that Pinto paid Bracha bribes. [ii]

The situation led one media outlet to compare Bracha with J Edgar Hoover, being able to extort somehow the justice system. [iii] One speculation was that Bracha became untouchable, since he headed the Special Investigation Team, which perverted the investigation of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in 1995.

In parallel, media have repeatedly published in recent week headlines, such as 'Dramatic development in the investigation -- under publication prohibition decree...' failing to provide the public any of the information. [iv] However, in the final days of June, a small online news outlet, News1, published almost on a daily basis new leaks regarding the developments in various corruption scandals. Moreover, it stated that an undercover investigation was under way in the Justice Ministry, Police Integrity Unit, regarding Bracha.

On Sunday, July 2, media reported that Bracha committed suicide the previous night by a single shot to the chest.

According to the initial media report, Bracha told his wife that he was going out to take a "breath of fresh air". His wife was worried, and she immediately called a close friend in the Israel Police. Bracha's whereabouts was detected within minutes, using GPS and his cell phone. He was found shot to death in his car.

Aftermath of the suicide

The news created an unprecedented shock wave and a media frenzy.

On the one hand, senior officials of the Justice Ministry and Israel Police started repeatedly denying that there was any evidence of Bracha's corruption, and that there was any type of investigation against him. On the other hand, both government officials and rival, established media started attacking News1, claiming that it caused the suicide through irresponsible publication of false news. However, no action was taken against News1. And eventually, a convoluted press release by the Justice Ministry tried to deny the existence of the "undercover investigation", but obliquely admitted the existence of a "secret examination"...

Haaretz daily published a report titled "collapse of the Israel Police". The suicide was noted as the latest in a series of corruption scandals, which led to the retirement, or forced resignation of about a dozen most senior Israel Police commanders, and complicated the question of finding a replacement for retiring General Inspector Yohanan Danino. Danino himself is no stranger to various types of corruption as well. In the "Harpaz document affair", which rocked the relationship between the most senior command of IDF, Shin-Bet, and the civilian authorities, it turned out that he secretly met with a top suspect and the suspect's attorney in New York, while the investigation was ongoing, in violation of standards of conduct. [v] Moreover, the suicide of Bracha came just days after Danino arranged for himself an extravagant farewell celebration at the taxpayer's expense, media's presence prohibited... Bracha's suicide appeared as a dissonant final cord for that party...

A few days after the suicide, and new mystery developed -- News1 leaked that Bracha's cell phone, originally reported as what led to location of his car, went missing. Media started then publishing various conflicting alternative reports of how the suicide was discovered. Eventually, it was published that investigation of the suicide itself was assigned to the Central District Fraud Investigation Unit - an odd assignment...

A secondary wave of reactions to the suicide is directed in two major directions: First -- attempts to restrict Freedom of the Press even further, by prohibiting the publication of suspicions of corruption of government officials, and second -- in calls for restriction the authority of the Police Integrity Unit in the Justice Ministry. "Israel Today" - Netanyahu's propaganda organ, a free newspaper, fully funded by Sheldon Adelson - was particularly vociferous in its attacks of News1, defense of Bracha's integrity, and in calls for false "corrective measures"...

Police corruption, or general regime corruption?

While some media attempt to portray the recent scandals as police corruption, other point out that the series of corruption scandals in police, IDF, cabinet ministries and more, points out to general public corruption of the current regime. Indeed, the years following the Rabin assassination have been marked by unprecedented corruption of all government agencies in Israel, the justice system in particular. [vi] Both OECD and the UN have run in recent months investigations relative to corruption of government in Israel and Israel's compliance with various international treaties for combating corruption.

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Dr Zernik's core research pertains to e-government and its significance for Human Rights and Civil Society.

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