Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday gave the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police officers the green light to continue with their probe of bribery allegations against Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, the head of the main investigative unit of the Israel Police. Investigators suspect Arviv accepted bribes from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto and his associates during Arviv’s stint as police attache in the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Justice Ministry officials have agreed that a full criminal investigation is in order. The next step would be to question Arviv under caution and get him to respond directly to the accusations against him.
Arviv commands Lahav 433, popularly known as Israel’s FBI, a unit incorporating the fraud, financial and serious and international crimes units. He has taken a leave of absence while the affair is being investigated.
Investigators are now waiting for Pinto to agree to the use of evidence he claims to have against Arviv. In the event Arviv is charged on the basis of this evidence, Pinto would have to testify against Arviv in court.
Pinto, in turn, is expected to be indicted for attempting to bribe Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha, the commander of the national fraud squad, in 2012. Pinto is suspected of trying to bribe Bracha in return for information on an investigation being conducted against the rabbi.
Pinto was the target of a joint investigation by U.S. and Israeli authorities of alleged misuse of funds from Hazon Yeshaya, a charity he and his wife control.
After meeting on Sunday morning with Arviv’s lawyers, Weinstein and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan decided to postpone a scheduled meeting with Pinto’s lawyers over a possible plea bargain. Sources said the postponement was not connected to materials given by Arviv’s lawyers to Weinstein and Nitzan.
Pinto’s lawyers, Eli Zohar and Roi Blecher, are expected to meet with Nitzan on Monday to clarify the state’s position in regard to their client. They hope to reach an agreement that would prevent an indictment against Pinto in the Bracha bribery case.
Pinto is presumably offering the evidence against Arviv - and possibly other officers - in return for a promise that he will not be indicted in the Bracha case and possibly others as well. Pinto’s associates insist they have evidence that other police officers accepted bribes from the rabbi.
For now the state is still seeking charges against Pinto in the Bracha case, in part to guarantee that Pinto understands a connection will be made between the two cases, said sources involved in the investigation.
Late Sunday night Nitzan met with the head of the Justice Ministry’s police investigations department and senior officials in the State Prosecutor’s Office to discuss their next moves.
The questions center around material they received about Arviv only in the past few weeks, which was not previously investigated.
After the meeting Weinstein instructed investigators to continue with their work. No official decision has yet been made on whether to open a criminal investigation, and Arviv has not yet been asked to tell his side of the story.
Weinstein expressed satisfaction with the quick handling of the investigation of such a complex affair.
It is still possible the Arviv case will be handled in a disciplinary rather than criminal procedure, after which Arviv would have to take early retirement from the force if the allegations are proved true. For now, Arviv and his lawyers say they are not interested in such proceedings, but according to police sources that could change.
In light of the evidence so far, it is thought extremely unlikely that Arviv could continue to command Lahav 443. Even if no charges are filed, there is sufficient evidence of conduct unbecoming to preclude his return, say the sources.
The Israel Police spokesman said “The disciplinary directive issued in November 2012 that forbids a policeman from wearing his uniform when not on duty states, inter alia, that it is forbidden to wear uniforms during interfaces of any kind with rabbis or kabbalists, including visits to their courts.”
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