Ex-chief rabbi fails in bid to evade fraud case

Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron is accused of issuing IDF, police officers fraudulent rabbinical certifications to acquire unlawful pay raises.

Former chief Sephardic rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron 370 (R) (photo credit: reuters)
Former chief Sephardic rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron 370 (R)
(photo credit: reuters)
The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday rejected former Sephardi chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron’s attempt to throw out the case against him on the grounds that the evidence collected against him violated general principles of justice.
The proceedings against Bakshi-Doron for allegedly ordaining IDF and police officers under fraudulent circumstances while he held the chief rabbi post started in late January.
The three main arguments that the rabbi’s lawyers made to end the case against him without the need to go to a full trial had to do with how the evidence had been collected and the absence of similar indictments against other clergy members who may have acted similarly to Bakshi-Doron.
The two main sources of evidence against him were his in-court testimony in an unrelated trial where he was just an outside witness, and statements he made to police afterwards.
The defense argued that in the unrelated trial and his later police statements, Bakshi- Doron incriminated himself without having been given proper warning by the prosecution, the courts or the police that any incriminating information could be used against him, even though he himself was not on trial at the time.
Bakshi-Doron’s lawyers said that failure to advise him of his right to avoid selfincrimination made the statements unusable as evidence and justified throwing out the entire case against him.
The court rejected the above arguments, saying that Bakshi-Doron had taken all the parties by surprise when he suddenly incriminated himself, and that since no one could have expected him to do so, the failure to advise him of his right to avoid self-incrimination would not be held against the prosecution.
The court added that the prosecution only meant to use the evidence-in-dispute indirectly in proving its case.
Finally, the court dismissed arguments that it was unfair for only him to be prosecuted when others – similarly situated – were not being prosecuted, stating that courts strive for equality in prosecution, but that equality of prosecution did not have to be mathematically exact.
The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against Bakshi- Doron in late December 2012.
The IDF and police officers who were fraudulently ordained went on to receive unlawful pay increases totaling hundreds of millions of shekels, the indictment said.
Head state prosecutor Moshe Lador decided to indict Bakshi-Doron after consulting with Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein, and after rejecting arguments that the former chief rabbi’s attorneys made at a special pre-indictment hearing.
He was indicted for receiving payment of various sorts under aggravated circumstances for his alleged central role in the affair, according to the indictment.
In November 2007, 10 indictments were handed down over the incident, in which over 1,000 members of the IDF and police force received false certificates of rabbinic ordination, entitling them to an extra NIS 2,000 to NIS 4,000 a month in wages.
Those indicted included the head of the rabbinate’s division for administering exams as well as teachers running specially established educational facilities, set up at the time to train security personnel as rabbis.
Students at these schools were ordained by the Chief Rabbinate, making them eligible for salary benefits.
The seminaries where the studies took place received registration fees for the classes, and the security personnel studied for five to 10 hours a week for a period of one to two-and-a-half years at most, but received certification that they had taken a five-year yeshiva program, enabling them to receive the pay bonus.
The earlier case is still ongoing.
During the course of Bakshi- Doron’s testimony in the earlier case, the indictment alleges that he contradicted his earlier account to police on the events surrounding the case.
According to the indictment, Bakshi-Doron admitted in his testimony that he had directed administrative officials to “look the other way” and issue ordinations even if the candidates did not meet the standard criterion.
This testimony led to police questioning him again. In the new round it was revealed that Bakshi- Doron knew that official statements about the level of knowledge attained by those being ordained were fraudulent, said the indictment.
The allegations against him relate to his activities during his tenure as Sephardi chief rabbi from 1998 to 2003.
The indictment says that he ended up taking a central role in the scheme, in an attempt to curry favor with other parts of the rabbinate who supported the programs, issuing the ordinations through his righthand man Rabbi Yitzhak Ohana.
The next hearing in the Bakshi-Doron case is scheduled for May 16.