Top Israeli police officer Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv lashed out at the criminal justice system as he announced his resignation Sunday night, saying he was bitterly disappointed at how bribery allegations against him were being handled.
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Arviv – commander of Israel Police’s elite corruption unit, Lahav 433 – was alleged to have taken bribes from New York-based Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto during his time as police attaché at the Israeli embassy in Washington. The allegations were made by Pinto’s attorneys, who submitted material to the police and attorney general to this effect. When the allegations became public in January 2014, Arviv took a month’s leave and braced himself for an investigation that he says never materialized.
“I can no longer deal with the conduct of the justice system, which I was an integral part of for many years,” Arviv told a press conference he convened in Tel Aviv. “Right now, the system is rolling me and my family in mud and tar.
“I’ve contacted the attorney general and the police commissioner several times, and demanded that I be summoned to be questioned, so that I can address every allegation that may exist against me,” he said. “All this time I’ve remained at home, at my expense, to facilitate any examination, but no one has contacted me and no one has asked to hear my version of events.
“It turns out that the person suspected of serious crimes who is involved in this case [Pinto] contacted the attorney general through his attorneys and submitted false information in an effort to avoid being brought to trial,” Arviv continued. “Before anything was checked and without getting my version of events, the state was prepared to consider granting [Pinto] immunity. Tonight, I decided I no longer want to play this game. I can’t accept these ways of doing things. I’ve decided to resign from the Israel Police after 36 years of service.”
Arviv refused to answer questions after making his statement.
Arviv’s attorneys, Gideon Fisher and Yehoshua Reznik, then issued a statement, saying that Arviv wants to see Pinto brought to trial. Fisher said he assumes “that an investigative committee will be established to examine how the state handled this case. Pinto is in the United States; let’s see the state bring him here.”
“This event caused him [Arviv] aggravation and a feeling of being betrayed by the system,” Reznik added. “He didn’t make this announcement to avoid anything; he has no doubt that the truth is on his side, and that he never accepted any kind of bribe.”
Arviv’s lawyers made it clear that he made the decision to resign on his own, not on their advice. They also clarified that there was no deal made with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein – on the contrary, they claim, they had failed in repeated attempts to reach the attorney general by phone or in writing, including yesterday morning. They said Arviv’s resignation was not a “defeatist” decision but “a human decision.”
Pinto’s associates soon responded to the news. “Now everyone understands that the hat is burning on the major-general’s head,” they said. “Maj. Gen. Arviv is trying to avoid the docket and criminal penalties, and leave it at a disciplinary action. It’s strange that the commander of the ‘Israeli FBI’ decided to resign to avoid punishment. The attorney general now has a unique opportunity to burn out the corruption in the police leadership and he dare not squander it.”
At the end of January, an agreement was reached between Weinstein and the head of the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers, Uri Carmel, to open a criminal investigation against Arviv, after the two were persuaded that the material submitted by Pinto’s attorneys contained real evidence against the officer.
Arviv’s wife, Sigal, who is a policewoman, was also questioned in January by the department for the investigation of police officers about any benefits her husband may have allegedly received for himself or his family. Fisher, Arviv’s attorney, stressed that Arviv’s wife had not been questioned under caution as a possible suspect. “It was part of the process of the department’s examination, and testimony was taken from her regarding only one issue. Department sources made it clear to her that this was an examination process. Arviv himself was not summoned as part of this examination process.”
Arviv took a lie detector test at a private polygraph institute just before the case became public, during which he was asked a number of detailed questions about the possibility that he received benefits from Pinto, and the nature of those benefits. He denied everything and was found to have passed the polygraph test. During a meeting with Weinstein a month ago, Fisher gave the AG the results of the test. Polygraph test results, however, are not admissible in legal proceedings.
As the investigation became public in January, it was intimated that, based on the evidence and documents in the hands of the attorney general, Arviv would not be able to continue commanding his Lahav 433 unit – which incorporates the fraud, financial, and serious and international crimes units – and would be forced to resign even if no criminal action was brought against him because of conduct unbecoming an officer.
Following the press conference, the Justice Ministry said, “At this time we have no intention of addressing [Arviv’s resignation], nor will we address questions regarding our handling of his case or the allegations relating to Rabbi Pinto.”