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Courts lifts gag order on 'severe scandal' relating to police, Rabbi Pinto
By BEN HARTMAN/Yonah Jeremy Bob
16/01/2014
Rabbi Yeshayahu Pinto is suspected of attempting to bribe a police officer; Knesset to hold hearings next week.
 

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday granted a request of several Hebrew media outlets to remove the gag order on the “severe scandal” that has rocked the Israel Police this week.

The gag order on the scandal, reportedly involving high-level law enforcement officials as well as Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, is expected to be officially removed Thursday morning.

A spokesman for the Knesset Interior Committee confirmed on Wednesday that it would be holding closed door hearings next week to investigate the severe scandal and the possibly related developments involving Pinto.

Founder of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva, Pinto is a well-known rabbi both in Israel and the US, and a descendant of two Sephardi rabbinical dynasties, Pinto and Abuhatzeira. He was listed as the seventh-richest rabbi in Israel last year by Forbes Israel.

Pinto has served as an adviser to a battery of Israel’s elite, including businessman Yitzhak Tshuva, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, former justice minister Yaakov Neeman and floundering business tycoon Nochi Dankner.

The exact date of the hearing was still undecided as the situation appeared fluid, and the spokesman refused to comment on the substance of the scandal on the grounds that the committee’s deliberations were to be secret.

In advance of the lifting of the gag order and recent developments, Pinto released a vague statement to followers saying, “an ugly period has befallen us, has come upon us through no fault of our own and solely for poor and disgusting reasons, using scare tactics, intimidation and misdeeds, for which this is not the place to specify.”

The Israel Police responded to the news saying that it had nothing to add to its Tuesday statement.

The committee’s hearings are to go forward despite the Israel Police’s Tuesday statement that recent reports of a severe scandal in the law-enforcement body were unsubstantiated.

“We advise reporters and others to avoid artificially creating something that is nothing but air, supported by the scattering of hints, about the leadership of the Israel Police,” it had previously said.

It said that the reports were on the brink of violating gag orders and that “the connection between them and reality is nonexistent.”

The police were referring to reports in Haaretz and elsewhere this week that “a severe scandal is shaking the Israel Police.”

According to the media, the case threatens the police’s top brass and will deal a serious blow to public faith in the organization.

The police response came as local media reported that there were new developments in the bribery case against Pinto.

The police stressed that the Pinto case or any other singular case could not compromise the reputation of an entire organization, adding that its reputation could certainly not be shaken by the dramatic statements of some journalists.

In 2012,  Pinto was arrested along with his wife after police allegedly recorded him giving a briefcase full of cash to then Asst.-Ch. Ephraim Bracha – now the head of the police’s National Fraud Squad.

Police said at the time that Pinto was trying to bribe Bracha in order to gain information about an investigation into a charity Pinto ran. However, Pinto denied the charge.

Bracha himself was a follower of the Ashdod and New York-based rabbi in the past and, according to people close to Pinto, had previously received financial assistance from the rabbi.

Last week, Channel 10 and Haaretz reported that the attorney-general decided to put a hold on the police investigation and the issuing of an indictment against Pinto, after receiving new information about the case.

Reports have circulated that the information was linked to an FBI investigation, in which Pinto is a witness, as well as his personal connection to Bracha.

Police would not comment on the Pinto case on Tuesday, saying that the case was not in their hands.

The Justice Ministry would not comment on the case either, though one source from the ministry did say that Bracha, whom a ministry probe previously cleared, was not the subject of a Justice Ministry investigation.

Also, late Wednesday night, Channel 2 reported that there were disagreements between elements of the defense establishment and of the Justice Ministry on agreements reached with Pinto’s defense counsel.

Channel 10 reported that Pinto had passed a private polygraph test that confirmed his story relating to the above controversy.

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