An investigation into alleged extortion at a prominent haredi (ultra-Orthodox) website has widened in recent days and includes new witnesses, police said Wednesday.

According to allegations, the director-general of the Hadrei Haredim news site and three employees extorted members of the haredi community, threatening to publish content that would damage their reputations if large sums were not paid to them.

“People were worried about what would happen. Some of the information was false, but it would still have ruined reputations in an irreversible way,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Those allegedly extorted paid between NIS 10,000 and 100,000 to prevent publication, police said. Police suspect that millions of shekels were extorted this way.

The investigation began in March when Jerusalem District Police received a complaint over alleged extortion.

The man who filed the complaint allegedly recorded a phone conversation with the director-general of the website in which sums were were demanded, prompting the investigation.

“The investigation is getting wider. More people have come forward with testimonies,” Rosenfeld said.

Those questioned in the investigation include people living abroad.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended the director-general’s custody by five days on Wednesday.

During the court session, the director-general’s attorney, Yehoshua Raznik, accused police of conducting a vindictive investigation because the site published an anti-police poster showing Jerusalem District Police chief Cmdr. Niso Shaham in an SS uniform. The publication came during the height of tensions between members of the haredi community and police in Beit Shemesh earlier this year.

“You are here on behalf of the district commander and making harsh claims because of this publication,” Raznik told the police representative to the court, according to Channel 10.

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