Court Administration Calls for Release of Ex-top Lawyer’s Texts in Corruption Case Involving Judges

Israel's judiciary 'does not seek to conceal anything,' statement says, arguing it would put to rest 'irresponsible slander against judges'

At the court hearing to extend Efraim Nave's detention in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, July 14, 2019.
Reuven Castro

Israel’s Court Administration would not object to releasing text messages exchanged between former Bar Association chairman Efraim Nave and judges amid fresh corruption allegations, it said Friday in a rare statement.

“In past days we have witnessed various reports on material extracted from attorney Efraim Nave’s mobile phone and correspondence he is claimed to have conducted with ministers, politicians, judges and journalists three years ago,” the statement read. It added that they would not oppose releasing the evidence, as it “would end this irresponsible slander against Israel’s judges as a whole.”

It added that the gag order on the reported material extracted from Nave’s phone was issued at his request. “The judiciary does not seek to conceal anything and has no objection to releasing the material,” the statement read.

On Thursday Haaretz reported that Nave apparently helped a judge secure a prestigious post in exchange for pushing his agenda. This matter was not investigated by police as part of the corruption probe against Nave, in which the state prosecutor has decided to indict him, subject to a hearing, for taking bribes in the form of sexual favors from Judge Eti Craif. The court administration denied the claims in the name of the judge, and Nave's attorney declined to comment.

According to the information obtained by Haaretz, in 2016 Nave acted to advance a senior judge, with whom he had close ties, to a post being sought by several judges. Nave agreed to advance the judge’s candidacy in exchange for the latter’s commitment regarding a legal matter of interest to Nave. The judge did not deny this.

The information shows that Nave appeared before the internal committee, consisting of senior judges, and expressed his support for promoting the judge in question over the other candidates. He also acted to block the candidacy of at least one other judge. The judge whom Nave recommended was ultimately appointed for the post and currently holds it.

A former judicial official said this appears to be an improper relationship that should be examined. But although the police and State Prosecutor’s Office have the information, they decided not to investigate the matter – in part because of the way the evidence apparently had been obtained.

The Court Administration said the report was “incorrect and the police’s decision not to open the investigation into this matter speaks for itself.”

About a year ago, the police anti-corruption unit Lahav 433 opened an investigation following information found in Nave’s mobile phone. The prosecution decided to focus only on two affairs, which raised suspicions of Nave’s taking sexual favors in exchange for his influence in the appointment of judges.

The main case centered on the suspicion that Nave had used his position as head of the Bar Association to promote the appointment of Craif, then a police prosecutor, as a magistrate’s court judge in exchange for sexual relations. The two are now waiting for a hearing following the prosecution’s decision to indict Nave for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and Craif for giving bribes and destroying evidence.

Nave is charged with acute conflict of interests due to his alleged intimate relations with Craif. These relations became more intense during her appointment procedure, but Nave did not tell any of the officials with whom he worked to advance her appointment about it. At the time Nave had then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s support and wielded considerable influence in the committee, which allegedly led to Craif’s being appointed by a large majority. The only one to object was retired Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein.

Nave was also questioned under caution in the case of a lawyer with whom he had a relationship. He was suspected of trying to fulfill her request to appoint her husband a district court judge, and of seeing to it that she was promoted to various posts in the Bar Association. He was not indicted in this case.