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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before