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Police: Evidence Holon rabbi extorted business owners over Kashrut certification
By BEN HARTMAN
27/04/2014
State prosecutors to decide whether to pursue charges against son of former Shas spiritual adviser Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
 
There is ample evidence to prosecute Holon Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef – a son of famed Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – on charges of extortion, fraud and breach of trust, the Israel Police said on Sunday.

The Lahav 433 serious crimes branch of the police said that they had finished building their case against Yosef and have sent their findings to state prosecutors who will decide whether to pursue charges against Yosef.

The allegations deal with the years 2008-2011, during which Yosef was the kashrut supervisor for the city of Or Yehuda. Police say that in several cases, Yosef acted in an illegitimate manner in giving out kashrut certificates, by forcing business owners looking to receive mehadrin kosher permits to buy meat and other food products that were under the supervision of the Shas-run Beit Yosef kashrut authority.

Yosef would allegedly do so by threatening the business owners that if they did not use that authority’s services, they would not be eligible for mehadrin certification.

This constituted a violation of regulations laid out by the Chief Rabbinate, police said Sunday. They added that he is not suspected of threatening to revoke the businesses’ kosher certifications outright, just those relating to mehadrin licensing.

The investigation of Yosef began after the Attorney- General’s Office received the findings of a probe carried out by the State Comptroller’s Office. Police said Sunday they have now turned over the findings of their investigation to the Tel Aviv branch of the State Prosecutor’s Office, which will decide how to proceed.

The Beit Yosef kashrut authority was founded by Ovadia Yosef and is run by his family. It counts thousands of businesses in Israel and abroad as clients, and in Israel is used by companies including Pizza Hut, Burger Ranch, Aldo, and the popular restaurants at both IKEA chains in Israel.

Police said that at the moment they don’t have evidence to recommend charges against anyone other than Yosef.

In terms of the scope of the alleged extortion, police wouldn’t say how many businesses were targeted, only that “it was more than a few but not dozens.” They also said that they questioned a large number of people in connection to the case.
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