Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto is scheduled to make a final admission of guilt to an indictment at a hearing before the Tel Aviv District Court scheduled for today as part of a plea bargain that is expected to lead to his conviction on bribery charges.
Pinto was forced to fly back to Israel for Tuesday’s hearing by the court, to plead guilty to bribery charges as part of his plea bargain.
A short while before landing at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday, Pinto began experiencing chest pains and was immediately transferred to the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv.
He underwent diagnostic catheterization on Monday morning, and was ultimately given a clean bill of health and was expected to be discharged in time for his Tuesday hearing.
The Justice Ministry responded to the incident by saying that it was withholding judgment until it got more details on Pinto’s condition, which the ministry said would be the court’s decision.
The last-minute medical drama came after Pinto had fought hard in court to avoid having to fly to Israel at all for Tuesday’s hearing and after months of delaying the hearing following his agreement to the plea bargain last September.
Some groups have accused Pinto of intentionally delaying the hearing to try to back out of the deal.
Other events have also delayed his plea bargain and conviction being sealed by the court, including an October freezing of the plea bargain that was only lifted in February, when the High Court of Justice decided to let the agreement go forward despite criticizing it.
The deal includes Pinto going on to be the state’s star witness against Asst.-Ch. (res.) Menashe Arbiv, the former head of the police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit, in return for a light jail sentence and obtaining leniencies for cases that could have been filed against entities he runs and some of his family members.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s decision to indict Pinto in a plea bargain followed a recommendation by State Attorney Shai Nitzan.
The indictment charged Pinto with trying to bribe National Fraud Squad head Dep.-Ch.
Ephraim Bracha with $200,000 to get information from him about a criminal investigation into the Hazon Yeshaya foundation Pinto was running.
Bracha reported Pinto’s actions to his superiors and then continued to gather evidence on the rabbi, the indictment said.
The allegations against Arbiv relate to his time as Israel Police attaché in Washington and involve allegations of receiving bribes in connection with Pinto.
Pinto was also charged with obstruction during an investigation, including the giving of benefits and the use of illegal means toward various authorities; intimidating witnesses; money- laundering and other offenses.
Pinto is the founder of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva and a wellknown rabbi both in Israel and the US, and a descendant of two Sephardi rabbinical dynasties, Pinto and Abuhatzeira.
In the past, he was listed as the seventh-richest rabbi in Israel by Forbes.
Pinto has served as an adviser to a battery of Israel’s elite, including businessman Yitzhak Tshuva, former justice minister Tzipi Livni, former justice minister Yaakov Neeman and floundering business tycoon Nochi Dankner.
At the time that Pinto’s deal was hot in the news, Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich and the Movement for Quality Government in Israel each separately slammed the deal, calling for dropping any such deals for the sake of unearthing the truth.
The NGO said pursuing those accused of giving bribes was no less important than pursuing corruption in the police.
Yacimovich said Pinto’s representatives had an open door to speak to and cut deals with Weinstein, and argued that such a practice conflicted with “equality before the law” principles.
The Labor MK also contrasted what she said was Pinto’s lightning- fast reception with Weinstein with the slow pace with which the attorney-general has addressed other cases.
She called the process a “complete obstruction [of justice]” and said “it must be immediately stopped.”
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira has commented on the case in the past, being especially critical of Arbiv’s closeness to Pinto, and his criticism may have contributed to Arbiv’s resignation over a year ago, when Pinto and Arbiv engaged in a public relations war that has taken a backseat of late but has not ended.
Arbiv has vigorously defended all allegations Pinto and the state have implied against him, though no charges are expected to be filed until Pinto is formally convicted.
Ben Zion Suki, who was a Pinto confidant and business associate in New York for many years, has been presumed in many reports to be a potential central witness against Arbiv, Pinto or both.
In the past, the media has aired recordings of Suki and now-indicted US Congressman Michael Grimm, another powerful Pinto connection, praising the rabbi as part of a pro-Pinto fund-raising drive a few years ago.
Grimm and Pinto, after years of mutual political support, are now regarded as arch-enemies, with one of the US cases reportedly alleging that Grimm was among the parties who tried to extort funds from Pinto.Judy Siegel contributed to this report.