Plea Deal Likely in Bribery Case Against Prominent Rabbi

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto will confess to trying to bribe one senior police officer and will testify against another.

Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz
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Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto
Rabbi Yoshiyahu PintoCredit: Moti Milrod
Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto is expected to sign a plea bargain by the end of the week, confessing that he attempted to bribe the commander of the national police fraud to receive information about an investigation against him.

Barring surprise developments, Pinto is expected to admit to attempting to give hundreds of thousands of shekels to Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha, in exchange for a maximum prison sentence of 12 months.

Pinto will also testify for the prosecution in the trial of the outgoing commander of police unit Lahav 433, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Menashe Arviv, for accepting bribes. The Justice Ministry has not officially announced the deal because Pinto has not yet signed it.

The deal with Pinto, who recently enlisted the services of the renowned Jewish-American attorney Alan Dershowitz, has come under fire both within and outside the state prosecutor’s office.

The case against Pinto involves the now-defunct charity Hazon Yeshaya, run by one of Pinto’s associates, Abraham Israel. In 2011, some of the charity’s employees began suspecting Israel of embezzlement and demanded that he resign. Israel refused and sought Pinto’s help, which Pinto agreed to provide.

In December 2011, a complaint to the police sparked an undercover investigation of Israel and Hazon Yeshaya. Pinto soon knew about the investigation, though it isn’t known who told him about it.

The prosecution claims that Pinto began to obstruct the investigation by gathering information about its progress and the people who were conducting it, including senior police officers.

Pinto is said to have met with Arviv in an effort to obtain information about various investigations into the rabbi’s conduct.

Ten months ago, just as an indictment was being drawn up against Pinto, his lawyer told Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein that the rabbi had information about an offense that had been committed by a senior police officer and asked that the indictment be postponed in exchange for the information. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador opposed the postponement and the negotiations with Pinto, but Weinstein agreed and went ahead.

Pinto’s lawyers told the Justice Ministry department for the investigation of police officers that Arviv had accepted a number of favors from Pinto and his followers.

Arviv denied the allegations but resigned from the force. The talks between Pinto’s lawyers and the justice system continued, and the results of a polygraph test administered to Pinto indicated that his claims about Arviv were true.

After an initial meeting in 2007, Bracha began coming to events hosted by the rabbi and the two men became close.

The document delineating the suspicions against Pinto, which Haaretz has obtained, states that in 2011 and 2012 the two met on various occasions and spoke on the phone, discussing suspicions against Pinto in the United States.

According to the document, Bracha admired Pinto and saw him as a spiritual figure and religious scholar.

In July 2012, Pinto and his wife Rivka were called in for questioning about Hazon Yeshaya, according to the document. In August 2012, Pinto invited Bracha to a suite at Tel Aviv’s Hilton Hotel in order to discuss the Hazon Yeshaya affair with him.

“Among other things, the rabbi asked Bracha whether he would be indicted. The rabbi also told Bracha about his conversations with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman about Hazon Yeshaya. Maj. Gen. Bracha, although he knew the details of the investigation and the two were on good terms, told the rabbi he was not familiar with the investigation,” the document states.

According to the document it was at this point that Pinto decided to offer Bracha a bribe of $200,000, in the belief that this was a large enough sum to overcome Bracha’s objections to accepting favors from him and would make him more willing to provide information.

At a subsequent meeting, Bracha turned down the bribe and reported the meeting to the head of the police investigations division, Yoav Segalovitch, who launched an investigation.

Four days later, Bracha came to another meeting at the Hilton, this time apparently with a recording device. It was at that time that Pinto named the figure of $200,000 in exchange for information Bracha had about police activities regarding Pinto.

On September 13, Bracha and his wife came to the Hilton, where Pinto’s wife gave Bracha’s wife, who also wearing a recording device, an envelope containing 100,000 Swiss francs. Pinto’s wife said to Bracha’s wife, “I owe you our whole lives and that “after Sukkot the rabbi wants to give Ephraim another $100,000.” That recording served as key evidence in the case against Pinto.

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