Police Assistant Commissioner Ephraim Bracha .
(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Thousands of loved ones and top police commanders and public officials paid their respects to National Fraud Squad head Dep.-Ch. Ephraim Bracha at his funeral Monday in the military section of the Modi’in cemetery, just a few kilometers from where he was found dead on Sunday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
Bracha had been in the public spotlight in recent years in connection with his lead role in investigating a number of high-profile cases, but the eulogies centered around his participation in bringing down Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto.
A former top police official Yoav Segolovich told the crowd that in the case of Pinto, Bracha had “to choose between your Rabbi and your country – you did not hesitate[ to choose your country]” Bracha was close to Pinto until he turned the rabbi in for an attempted bribe for help in beating a criminal investigation into one of Pinto’s organizations.
Pinto was convicted of bribery and sentenced to a year in prison, but infamously told Bracha he should commit suicide and Pinto’s numerous followers engaged in a public smear campaign of the commander, which those close to him have said was too much for him to bear.
Segolovich continued, accusing those who smeared Bracha for “injuring him as a sin, a continuous sin.
Bracha’s brother Meir and his niece Shimrit, voice shaking, pointed an angry and accusing finger at the media, saying, “The media took your life… the media forgot its ethics” and with its “falsehoods it went after your blood” with stories smearing Bracha with “words written in blood.”
His daughter, Moran, in tears through much of her eulogy, told of the last Shabbat she spent with him when the family could “see you were feeling down, but we could not see how down.”
Everyone always told me “my eyes lit up whenever I spoke of you,” she went on.
“Maybe you were an angel who accidentally fell from heaven.”
Several other current top-ranking police officials spoke including Lahav 443 Commander Asst.-Ch. Roni Ritman and Investigations Commander Asst-Ch. Meni Yitzhaki, each of whom emphasized that Bracha had handled the hardest and most sensitive cases.
Also in attendance were Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, outgoing police chief Yohanan Danino, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein, State Attorney Shai Nitzan, former state attorney Moshe Lador and many others.
The 55-year-old father of four, whose sons said the Kaddish mourners’ prayer for him at the funeral, had left his Modi’in home looking emotionally distraught early Sunday morning, family members told the press, though he only said he was going out for some fresh air. They contacted police, who tracked Bracha’s cell-phone signals and found him in his car, not far from his home.
In 2012, Bracha made waves when he broke the case against Pinto after he recorded the celebrity rabbi offering him a $200,000 bribe in return for information about an investigation against the Hazon Yeshaya foundation he ran.
In November 2012, shortly after his arrest, Pinto was taken for a confrontation with Bracha in an interrogation room.
According to a transcript of the meeting, which was published by Haaretz in April, Bracha can be heard denying Pinto’s allegations that he took money from the rabbi, saying he was willing to take a polygraph test.
Bracha: “If you gave me a shekel – I’m saying a shekel, right? – I will place my head on the guillotine and chop it off... and commit suicide.”
Pinto: “Do it.”
Early on Sunday, the Justice Ministry rejected reports from Yoav Yitzhak of News1 that Bracha had committed suicide in response to a very recent, but unpublicized, decision by the prosecution to open a full criminal investigation against him in connection with allegations that he had broken the law in at least two separate investigations.
The ministry said the allegations were “grossly false,” and later in the day issued a statement saying Bracha was “a devoted and courageous officer who gave his all to the rule of law. For over 30 years he served the police in a series of roles and was one of the leaders of the war against public corruption and crime in general.”
Bracha was born and raised in the tough Ramat Amidar neighborhood of Ramat Gan, and joined the Israel Police in 1983. In 1987, he became a detective in the Tel Aviv District’s special investigative unit, where he helped lead efforts to end a murderous underworld war in the 1990s between mobsters from Ramat Amidar and Pardes Katz.
For years, Bracha was considered one of the most talented investigators on the national force and was at the center of many of its most sensitive cases. As head of the National Fraud Squad, he ran investigations into corruption by public officials, including the ongoing Yisrael Beytenu case.Ben Hartman contributed to this report.