Bribery Case Involving Prominent Israeli Rabbi to Move Into Next Stage

Central witness in case involving Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto landing in Israel on Tuesday.

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A high-profile rabbi suspected of attempting to bribe an Israeli police officer who now heads the fraud squad is expected to fly into Israel this weekend in light of a development in a police investigation against him.

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto is based in the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashdod as well as in Manhattan, and his many followers include public figures, leading businesspeople and underworld figures.

A central figure in the bribery case will be landing in Israel on Tuesday and is said to have significant information about the bribery case, which is shaking up the Israel Police.

This week both Haaretz and Channel 10 reported that explosive information brought to the attention of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is expected to delay an expected announcement regarding the intent to bring serious charges against Pinto.

Pinto is suspected of attempting to bribe a senior police officer, Ephraim Bracha, who was close to the rabbi and is today the commander of the National Fraud Squad, by offering him 200,000 shekels (about $57,000) in exchange for information about an investigation of the Hazon Yeshaya nonprofit association, which Pinto headed.

Bracha immediately reported the offer to his superiors, who wired him to document the alleged bribery attempt. Pinto and his associates say that he and Bracha had a lengthy relationship during which the rabbi had supported the officer financially. These claims were investigated by top prosecutors, who said there was nothing to them.

Pinto also said he told U.S. authorities about financial ties to Bracha as part of an FBI investigation into U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm.

The complex investigation against Pinto has revealed the extent of the close relationships that have developed between various rabbis and senior police officers.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, once revealed that the person who told him he would be appointed commissioner, several months before the official announcement, was Bruria Zvuluni, a respected arbitrator of disputes among Israel’s crime families and the sister of another popular rabbi, Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan, known as the “X-ray rabbi” for his reputed diagnostic powers.

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto at Ben-Gurion International Airport during a pilgrimage in 2009.Credit: Nato Tucker

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