It seems that a tactical ploy by Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto and his attorneys did the trick. The stratagem involved Pinto providing incriminating information on Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, the former commander of the Lahav 433 police unit. This took Pinto out of the line of fire and deflected the initial intention of the attorney general and state prosecutor to indict him.
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According to recent reports (Yaniv Kubovich and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz), the Justice Ministry’s police investigations unit and the State Prosecution are inclined to cooperate with this manipulation.
Pinto landed in Israel at night between Monday and Tuesday, after graciously consenting to testify for two days against Arviv. In the past few days, it has been indicated that if Pinto’s testimony strengthens the suspicions against Arviv, about receiving bribes from Pinto, the prosecution and attorney general will make do with no more than a year’s prison term for the rabbi.
Former State Prosecutor Moshe Lador had already decided to indict Pinto, subject to a hearing. The indictment was prepared, focusing on the rabbi’s alleged attempt to bribe the head of the police's national fraud squad, Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha. Pinto is suspected of paying $200,000 for information about a police investigation into alleged embezzlement at Hazon Yeshaya, a now-defunct charity. Video cameras documented Pinto’s wife passing half the amount of money to Bracha’s wife.
Even if the information Pinto is offering the police investigators is very valuable, it is of utmost importance to deal with Pinto with the full rigor of the law. Rabbi Pinto, with his extensive ties and connections, has become one of the most influential people in Israel. He has gathered around him followers, businesspeople, government officials, members of the media and crime figures.
There is a sense that Pinto may represent a wider culture of corruption that permeates public life and which requires a thorough investigation.
The fact that Pinto is surrounded by senior attorneys and cronies with influence must factor into the state’s considerations. Pinto is not above the law and must be treated like any rank-and-file citizen.
The stench of the relations between police top brass and the rabbi’s court ought to be fully exposed in a public trial. So the attorney general must not abandon his original intention — he must serve a full indictment against Pinto, including all the charges against him.
Pinto is suspected of systematically collecting information about senior police officers, demanding that some of them be replaced, threatening an officer, offering bribes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and intimidating witnesses, according to a document prosecutors sent Pinto and his wife, Rivka, a few weeks ago.
Prosecutors are now busy turning the 10-page document detailing these suspicions into an indictment, as Pinto waived his right to a hearing. The likely charges will include offering bribes, obstructing an investigation, suborning witnesses, making threats and money laundering. Pinto denies all the allegations.