President Rejects Rabbi Pinto’s Request for Clemency

Pinto was sentenced to a year in prison for attempted bribery and obstruction of justice.

Ilan Assayag

President Reuven Rivlin has rejected a request to pardon Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, who is serving a year in prison for attempted bribery and obstruction of justice.

Rivlin’s decision was in keeping with the position of the Justice Ministry that Pinto should not be granted clemency.

In a plea bargain, the rabbi admitted offering a bribe to the late police Brig. Gen. Efraim Bracha, who headed the national fraud squad, and obstructing justice. Bracha took his own life in July 2015.

He applied for the pardon only two months after entering Nitzan Prison in February, primarily because of his medical condition. Now he will have to wait for a parole board hearing scheduled for next month that will determine if he can be released early. Pinto’s appeal of his sentence to the Supreme Court was rejected in January by Justice Menachem Mazuz, Isaac Amit and Zvi Zylbertal, who allowed the decision by Tel Aviv District Court Judge Oded Mudrik to stand.

Upon sentencing Pinto to the year in prison, the sentence suggested by the prosecution, Mudrik wrote, “We’re talking about a rabbi and great person who sinned and led others to sin, who was corrupt and corrupted others, and involved others in his crimes, including his wife. We must view even more gravely the bribery efforts aimed at inserting a Trojan stake into the heart of law enforcement in order to ‘conquer’ it and so those serving in it would act and operate like puppets in the briber’s hands. While Brig. Gen. Bracha is not ‘the head of the Israeli FBI,’ if he had not refused the defendant’s offers and exposed his misdeeds it could have caused multifaceted harm.”

Mudrik was critical of the plea bargain, which he thought let Pinto off too easy. He said the arrangement gave too much weight to external factors, like prosecuting former Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, against whom Pinto agreed to testify in return for the light sentence. Arviv had headed Lahav 433, which includes the fraud squad, the serious and international crimes unit and the financial investigations unit, and is sometimes referred to as Israel’s FBI.

Pinto admitted to passing a bribe of 400,000 shekels (Over $100,000) to Bracha’s wife through his own wife, Devora, in return for information he wanted about an investigation that involved Hazon Yeshaya, a nonprofit organization he heads. The plea bargain was signed after a lengthy negotiation between Pinto and the attorney general and state prosecutor, and after he gave incriminating information about Arviv.

Former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced when he stepped down that there are plans to try Arviv for fraud, breach of trust, and not fulfilling his duty by not reporting the bribe offer he received from Pinto. He also tried to conceal his ties to Pinto when he was questioned about them during the investigation of the attempt to bribe Bracha.