Former Shas MK Convicted of Construction Without Permits

Judge refused plea to let off Rabbi Rafael Pinhasi lest a conviction would damage his chances of being appointed to public posts.

Rabbi Rafael Pinhasi, secretary of Shas' Council of Torah Sages was convicted last week of building and using a structure without permits.

Pinhasi, who agreed to a plea bargain, requested that he not be convicted, since a conviction would damage his chances of being appointed to public posts. Judge Jacob Shaked, serving at Bnei Brak court of local affairs, rejected the request, saying that "the defendants' blood isn't redder than other defendants."

Pinhasi was charged with construction and use of a structure in breach of clauses in planning and construction laws. As part of the plea bargain, Pinhasi admitted that he made use of the apartment, despite the fact that it was built illegally. The sides also agreed that a decree prohibiting the use of the apartment would be immediately issued, Pinhasi would be fined NIS 5,000 and would sign a NIS 20,000 guarantee to refrain from breaching the planning and construction laws in the next two years.

This wasn't Pinhasi's first conviction. In 1997 he was convicted for transferring funds illegally, and was sentenced to a fine and a 12-month suspended sentence.

Pinhasi, a former Shas MK, requested that the court suffice with this punishment and refrain from convicting him. His attorney, Yitzhak Osditscher argued that "Pinhasi's social and public standing is well known. He is the secretary of Shas' Council of Torah Sages. A conviction undermines his chances of being appointed to public posts and stains his reputation." Osditcher requested that the court "protect his resume."

Judge Shaked rejected the plea. "The Supreme Court has often recognized breaches of the planning and construction laws as a national calamity, which should be fought against," the judge said. "This is especially true when dealing with a white-collar crime, meant to profit the defendant by letting the apartment."

As to the possible damage to Pinhasi's public standing, Judge Shaked said it was a "general and vague saying," adding that there was no evidence that Pinhasi "would seriously be harmed by a conviction, or evidence that the damage to the defendant would be disproportionate to the severity of the crime."

Lior Mizrahi