Rabbi Pinto - AP - July 2011
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto at a wedding in Lod earlier this month. Photo by AP
Text size

Argentina's chief rabbi sumbitted a written deposition this week to the Jerusalem District Court saying he was exploited by his son in law, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, to launder money through the purchase of a Jerusalem apartment.

Rabbi Shlomo Ben Hamo claimed in the deposition that he was asked by Pinto and his daughter, Deborah Pinto Ben Hamo, to open a bank account in Argentina for the couple. Subsequently, Ben Hamo says, he helped with the acquisition of a luxury apartment by the couple.

The dwelling, valued at more than a million dollars, is located in the Jerusalem of Gold complex in Jerusalem.

Ben Hamo is being sued by the Har Zion hotel concern, which is developing the project, for not making good on the purchase contract, which he signed as a guarantor. Ben Hamo says Pinto should be sued because the apartment was purchased for him with his money.

Proceedings clarifying the dispute will be held next month in Jerusalem's District Court.

Pinto, who splits time between Ashdod and New York, is well-known as a spiritual adviser to many elites in Israeli society. Haaretz failed to obtain a response from him.

In the deposition, Ben Hamo said his daughter and Pinto approached him a few years ago about opening a bank account in Argentina in his name.

Ben Hamo claims that he originally refused to open the account, but after his daughter implored him repeatedly, claiming that such a refusal was aggravating a dispute with her husband, he relented.

Ben Hamo testified that the Pintos arrived at his home in Buenos Aires with the representative of a foreign bank, and had him sign papers authorizing the opening of the account.

In 2007, the Pintos once again approached Ben Hamo, and announced that Pinto and his siblings had purchased two apartments in the prestigious Jerusalem of Gold complex for $1,150,000 apiece.

Ben Hamo wrote that his daughter explained to him that her husband wanted him to serve, for technical reasons, as a guarantor in the purchase agreement with the contractor.

"I refused to do that," Ben Hamo testified in the deposition, "but my daughter applied all sorts of pressure, and manipulated my feelings toward her; she claimed that my refusal would cause disputes with her husband."

Ben Hamo said they promised he would have no responsibility beyond putting his signature on the contract.

"All handling of payments and registration and everything else would be done by Mrs. Pinto and her husband," he wrote in the deposition.

In July 2007, Ben Hamo said, the agreement was signed between the contractor, the Pinto couple and himself. Ben Hamo traveled to New York from Argentina to sign the document.

"From this point onward," Ben Hamo wrote, "a sequence of events ensued, and at its end my relations with my daughter and son-in-law ran aground; I was the target of insults and threats. In retrospect, it became clear to me that all this happened so that I could be exploited and Rabbi Pinto's money could be laundered."

Ben Hamo testified he never paid any money, but discovered in 2008 that neither had Pinto. The developer subsequently threatened legal action against Ben Hamo in 2009 if he did not pay for the unit.

After receiving this notification, Ben Hamo traveled to Israel, and met with lawyers and rabbis who tried to help him in negotiations with the contractor.