Editors arrested as bug scandal rocks Israel

F

The editors of Israel's two largest newspapers were in police custody yesterday accused of wire-tapping each other - along with over 200 journalists, businessmen and politicians. Ofer Nimrodi, editor and publisher of the daily Ma'ariv, is also alleged to have paid thousands of dollars a month to two private investigators involved in the bugging to prevent them co- operating with the police.

It is the decision one of these investigators, Ya'acov Tsur, to turn state's evidence that has led to the rash of arrests of senior figures at Ma'ariv. Police had hoped to wait another three weeks before making arrests, but a tip-off that Mr Nimrodi was about to fly to Zurich led to his arrest at Ben Gurion airport last Saturday.

Police followed this up by raiding Ma'ariv's arch-rival, Yediot Aharanot, on Monday and taking away the publisher, Arnon (Noni) Mozes, and the editor- in-chief, Moshe Vardi. The scandal is shaking the journalistic and political establishment here because much of the highly-concentrated Israeli media, including television and magazines, is owned by Mr Nimrodi and Mr Mozes.

Amos Schoken, the third of Israel's media barons and owner of Ha'aretz, the most prestigious of Israeli newspapers, said: "There are grave suspicions that criminal elements have taken over an important newspaper in Israel." He was apparently referring to Ofer Nimrodi, whose father, Ya'acov, made his money through the supply of arms to the Shah of Iran and was later involved in the Iran-Contra affair. "Journalism has fallen into disgrace," said Dov Yudkovsky, a former editor of Yediot Aharanot, yesterday. "Instead of carrying out investigative journalism, it has turned into the one being investigated."

Ma'ariv was bought from its previous owner, Robert Maxwell, three years ago by Ya'acov Nimrodi. He said his son Ofer had always wanted to own a newspaper, so "I bought him one when he came back from Harvard".

The scandal also underlines the extent to which the culture of the external intelligence service, Mossad, and the internal security Shin Beth, former officers of which are routinely employed by Israeli companies, has affected Israeli business. Advertisements for private detectives - many offering wire-tapping services - cover 10 pages in the Tel Aviv yellow pages. Mr Tsur, who will receive immunity, as well as a large reward for becoming a prosecution witness, had invented a computer program for bugging faxes, and used a $100,000 machine for tapping cellular phones.

Police found the evidence of wiretapping in April last year when a bug was discovered in the office of a Yediot Aharanot director. It appears the initial motive for the wire taps was a circulation war raging between the newspaper and Ma'ariv, but this does not explain why the bugging stretched into the offices of the Israeli President and the security services themselves. A possible additional motive is that the press barons needed political leverage to extend their television and cable empires, which compete with state-backed television.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

£120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer / Systems Administrator

£25000 - £32500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in SW London, this compan...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion this leading designer and sup...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a friendly, confident i...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee