Sex for Judgeship Scandal: Police Recommend Prosecuting Israel's Former Bar Association Head

Although unable to prove bribery, police recommend prosecuting Efraim Nave for fraud and breach of trust, alongside a district court judge who is suspected of destroying evidence of the alleged bribes

Efraim Nave at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, January 2019.
Reuven Castro

The police are recommending the prosecution of the former head of the Israel Bar Association, Efraim Nave, for fraud and breach of trust in the affair of appointing judges in exchange for sex. They also recommend prosecuting Netanya Magistrate’s Court Judge Eti Craif for the same offense.

Craif is suspected of sexually bribing Nave in return for her promotion, and for destroying evidence by erasing content from her cell phone during the investigation.

The police were unable to establish whether sexual bribery took place, one reason being the difficulty of ascertaining that the relations between Nave and Craif took place in return for her promotion.

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The police say they have unequivocal proof that their relationship became closer at every stage of her candidacy. One of the main charges against her is destroying evidence. She allegedly erased correspondence and other details from her phone during the police investigation in order to disrupt it.

In the wake of the investigation Craif has been suspended, with her consent, until October 2. Now that the investigation is drawing to a close, the legal system will consider what steps to take against her.

Nave is also suspected of attempting to bring about the appointment of a Magistrate’s Court judge to the District Court while having a sexual relationship with a lawyer who was the judge’s spouse. The appointment was unsuccessful. Here, too, the police could not prove bribery, and recommend prosecution for fraud and breach of trust, as well as on suspicion of helping a student receive exemptions on the bar exam.

The police also investigated Nave’s complaint that his personal phone was hacked. They took testimony from Army Radio journalist Hadas Steiff, who obtained information from Nave’s phone and gave the phone to the police. The police also took testimony from Nave’s ex-wife and from the hacker.

Ultimately the police decided not to recommend the prosecution of those involved in the hacking, despite violations of the Right to Privacy Law. The reason was the promise of the State Prosecutor’s Office to grant immunity to those involved in the hacking, and in light of the importance of the affair, which involved the appointment of judges in Israel. The immunity is contingent on not using the hacked materials.

Nave’s defense attorneys, Boaz Ben Zur, Carmel Ben Zur and Guy Raveh, said in response: “The principal claim at the start of the procedure - which the police seized on in order to justify the serious offenses by which it received the materials - was for bribery. This claim has disappeared. We’re left with a vague police announcement, even regarding the Army Radio reporter and her the criminal offenses, which should have been the focus of the police investigation.”

According to Ben Tsur, the investigation “will show that the few and general suspicions remaining are unfounded. It’s regrettable that the investigative bodies lacked sufficient integrity to already end the investigation entirely.”

Craif’s attorney, Ofir Straschnow, said that his client denies committing any offenses.