During the period she was being questioned by police, Judge Eti Craif erased text messages that she had exchanged with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who was a member of the judicial appointments committee that appointed her to the bench, Haaretz has learned. Police succeeded in recovering the messages as their investigation continued.
Craif says she had erased the messages to protect Kahlon’s privacy. The finance minister said, “All the relevant information has been given to the competent authorities.”
In January 2019, Craif, a Netanya Magistrate’s Court judge, was first questioned as a possible suspect on suspicions that she had granted sexual favors to former Israel Bar Association chairman Efraim Nave, in return for which he would use his considerable influence to lobby for her appointment to the bench.
Before being asked to surrender her cellphone to investigators, she was allowed to keep it to make several calls. According to the document listing the allegations against her, during this time she erased correspondence that she had with “a committee member,” meaning Kahlon, although his name isn’t mentioned, but didn’t tell the investigators she had done so.
According to the document, Craif, “Took advantage of the investigators’ confidence and while in the investigations room erased from her phone messages on WhatsApp between her and a number of people, including one of the members of the judicial appointments committee, knowing that they could be needed as evidence in the investigation against her, which deals with the process of her appointment to the bench.” The erasures were revealed later, when investigators hacked her phone and restored them. Because of the erasures, she is also suspected of destroying evidence.
The prosecution is seeking to indict both Nave and Craif, subject to a hearing, on bribery charges. Nave is suspected of exploiting his position as bar association head to lobby for Craif’s appointment among judicial appointment committee members and others, even though his intimate relations with Craif, about which he told no one, posed a clear conflict of interest.
Craif’s attorneys, Ofir Shtrashnov and Nati Simhoni, said, “The honorable Judge Craif did not commit any criminal act, and we are convinced and confident that we will be able to make this case during the hearing. Moshe Kahlon does not have and never has had any criminal involvement in the case and has never been questioned as a suspect. As such, erasing correspondence with him doesn’t constitute any kind of violation, and was aimed solely at preserving his privacy. The correspondence was completely restored, and the content of the messages that were erased, as well as the timing of the correspondence – a long time after the appointment – demonstrate clearly that the correspondence that was erased had nothing to do with the appointment or the investigation.”