Cash payments to his son, a discounted apartment in Tel Aviv, assistance in attaining US visas for his immediate family and free nights in a Manhattan hotel were allegedly given to former Lahav 433 chief Menashe Arbiv by associates of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, according to details of the corruption case cleared for publication on Sunday.
The payments, which allegedly included a NIS 700,000 discount on an apartment in north Tel Aviv and semi-monthly payments of $2,000 to Arbiv’s son, were made to Arbiv while he was the Israel Police attaché in Washington, DC.
Arbiv has denied that he received illicit payments from Pinto or his people.
The gag order on the allegations was lifted on Sunday following a request by the Justice Ministry, which said there was no need to keep the order in place following publication of the allegations in the Israeli press over the weekend.
The publishing of the allegations follows an announcement by the ministry last Wednesday night that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein had decided to indict Pinto in the coming days on allegations of trying to bribe police Dep.-Ch. Ephraim Bracha, who heads the National Fraud Squad.
The allegations in that case are that Pinto tried to bribe Bracha with $200,000 to gain information about a criminal investigation into the Hazon Yeshaya foundation run by Pinto. Bracha reported Pinto’s actions to his superiors and then continued to gather evidence on Pinto, according to the ministry.
Pinto is well known both in Israel and the US, a descendant of two Sephardi rabbinical dynasties and the founder of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva.
He was listed as the seventh-richest rabbi in Israel last year by Forbes Israel and has served as an adviser to a battery of Israel’s elite.
That decision to indict Pinto was announced only a few days after Arbiv, the former head of Lahav 443 (popularly called “the Israeli FBI”) announced that he had decided to leave the Israel Police after 36 years in the force, following the allegations against him.
There has been wide speculation that Pinto would cut a deal to turn state’s witness against Arbiv in order to avoid prosecution in the Ephraim Bracha case.
The statement announcing the indictment last week said that Pinto is also expected to be charged with obstruction during an investigation including the giving of benefits and the use of illegal means in dealing with various authorities, intimidating witnesses, money laundering and other offenses.
The full-fledged indictment of Pinto, decided on after a final meeting with Pinto’s lawyers which did not lead to an agreement, indicates that either Arbiv’s resignation (which the statement pointedly noted) made his information obsolete, that the information was not useful or that Weinstein concluded that the public interest demanded a severe indictment of Pinto in any scenario.
The ministry statement said that Arbiv’s fate is still being considered, and that of the information which Pinto’s lawyers provided on him before talks broke down, some of it justified further investigation and some of it did not.