Rabbi Pinto Sentenced to One Year in Prison

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Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto at Tel Aviv District Court. May 12, 2015.Credit: Magad Gozani

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, who was convicted on charges of bribery, attempted bribery and obstruction of justice in a plea bargain, was sentenced on Tuesday to one year in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 1 million shekels ($260,000).

Earlier this month, Pinto pleaded guilty to bribing a senior police official, Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha.

Pinto is considered one of Israel's wealthiest rabbis. The great-grandson of a famous Moroccan-born mystic known as the Baba Sali, he amassed his fortune while serving as spiritual guru to the rich and powerful in Israel, New York, and elsewhere.

Pinto was indicted in September for allegedly giving 400,000 shekels ($103,000) in bribes to Bracha, who now heads the police’s fraud unit. Pinto was also charged with attempted bribery involving a similar sum, and with obstruction of justice.

The indictment followed an earlier plea bargain in which the rabbi agreed to serve as a state’s witness against Arviv, the retired head of Lahav 433.

According to the indictments, Pinto and his wife Dvora feared they would be questioned about the practices of Hazon Yeshaya, a nonprofit group run by a Pinto associate, Abraham Israel. In turn, Israel is said to have asked for Pinto’s support in the investigation; shortly thereafter, $1.2 million was allegedly transferred to Dvora Pinto’s bank account.

Pinto is said to have subsequently offered bribes to Bracha, whom he has known since 2007. Bracha had regularly attended events organized by Pinto, who is said to have tried to get Bracha to provide information about the investigation against Israel and himself.

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