|Yaakov Weinroth 311.(Photo by: Israel Hadari)|
Top attorney Jacob Weinroth acquitted of bribery
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK
Judge: "Weinroth lacks guilty mind needed for conviction"; co-defendant tax official Yehoshua Vita convicted of breach of trust, fraud.
Attorney Dr. Jacob Weinroth, one of the country’s most prominent lawyers and a
specialist in white-collar crimes, was acquitted by the Tel Aviv District Court
on Monday of charges of bribery and money-laundering.
The acquittal comes
as a blow to the State Attorney’s office, who said that after the verdict the
prosecution intends to study the ruling and consider their next
Top attorney charged with bribery and money-laundering
Although the court acquitted Weinroth, it convicted his
co-defendant, former senior Tax Authority official Yehoshua ‘Shuki’ Vita of
three counts of fraud and breach of trust.
Weinroth’s indictment nearly
two years ago sent shock waves through the legal community.
attorney, who has represented Binyamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, the jailed
former finance minister Avraham Hirchson, and numerous other high-profile
Israeli figures, was accused by state prosecutors of providing legal services
without charge, or for an unusually low fee on behalf of Vita, allegedly in
return for services.
However in the verdict Judge Gilad Neuthal said that
Weinroth’s conduct was not unusual in the light of his fee-charging behavior to
The prosecution had said a mutually beneficial
relationship had grown between Weinroth and Vita, who was accused of handling
tax arrangements by Weinroth regarding his own finances and those of Weinroth’s
wealthy clients, including Uzbekistan-born Israeli entrepreneur and
industrialist Michael Cherney and Russian- Israeli Arkadi Gaydamak. Gaydamak
allegedly paid Weinroth NIS 30 million in legal fees for his tax work on their
In acquitting Weinroth, however, Judge Gilad Neuthal said that
the attorney’s behavior toward Vita had not departed from that toward other
clients for whom he had either not taken legal fees, or to whom he had offered a
lower fee rate, as he had done in Vita’s case.
“Weinroth lacks the guilty
mind needed for a bribery conviction,” the judge said.
Vita was also
acquitted of accepting bribes from Weinroth.
In his defense, Weinroth had
brought evidence to show that while he took high fees from certain large
clients, he has also represented other individuals whom he charges according to
their financial means.
Attorneys Boaz Ben-Tzur and Hadas Lis from
Weinroth’s office had also testified in court that Weinroth charged certain
clients lower fees according to their ability to pay. Weinroth was also
acquitted of violating the money-laundering law by concealing the fact that an
account-in-trust that he opened in his own name was actually meant for Gaydamak,
which the prosecution had alleged was out of concern that the police might seize
the funds as part of their criminal investigation against the Russian-Israeli
However, Judge Neuthal ruled that the defense had not
managed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Weinroth was guilty of the
The judge said that Gaydamak had openly worked to invest large
sums of money in Israel and that there is a reasonable possibility that Weinroth
had opened the account-in-trust to ensure payment of taxes on behalf of Gaydamak
and also to ensure the payment of a fee for representing him.
convicting Vita of breach of trust and fraud, Judge Neuthal said that the tax
official had maintained a clear conflict of interest in receiving legal services
from Weinroth, while simultaneously managing the tax affairs of Weinroth’s
clients. Specifically, Vita had managed the tax affairs of Cherney and Gaydamak,
while concealing his interests from his superiors.
attorney, Navot Tel-Tzur, said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post that the
defense team viewed the decision to acquit Weinroth as important “with regard to
maintaining attorneys’ freedom of occupation and discretion in providing legal
“The court dismissed the entire case and accepted the position
of the defense that there was nothing wrong with the fact that attorney Weinroth
represented Shuki Vita and did not charge him fees in some cases,” continued
Tel-Tzur, who added that he hoped the verdict would make the prosecution “think
again with regard to indictments on the basis of circumstantial
The State Attorney’s office said after the verdict that
prosecutors are considering their next steps.
“The fact that Weinroth’s
acquittal was [made] due to doubt proves that this was an indictment worthy of
being examined by the court,” said the State Attorney’s Office in a statement.
“The prosecution will not be deterred from filing charges in the future,
including in cases where there is no absolute certainty that they will result in
a conviction... as usual, on the basis of professional
After the judgement on Monday, Weinroth thanked his wife
and family, whom he said had stood by his side throughout the
Weinroth’s press adviser, Tamar Paul-Cohen, later told the Post
that Weinroth was happy to be able to return to work.
“That is the most
important thing,” said Paul-Cohen.