Former chief rabbi Metzger arrested for taking bribe, fraud

Metzger suspected of defrauding charities of millions of shekels.

CHIEF RABBI Yona Metzger 370 (photo credit: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)
CHIEF RABBI Yona Metzger 370
(photo credit: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)
Former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was arrested Monday morning on suspicion of receiving bribes and illicit payments, and taken to Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court where a judge extended his remand in police custody for nine days.
Speaking at the hearing, Judge Menahem Mizrahi said that “there is reasonable suspicion that the offenses attributed to the suspect were indeed committed [by him],” and added that releasing the rabbi could interfere with the police investigation.
The police representative at the hearing for the extended remand, Asaf Valfish of the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit and chief investigator in the case stated that the investigation was creating a “depressing picture,” according to which Metzger allegedly received bribes and forbidden payments of an “unprecedented scope.”
Valfish said that the amounts allegedly payed to Metzger added up to millions of shekels in cash received by the rabbi over the last 10 years while he was serving as chief rabbi, and also charged the rabbi with breach of public trust.
In the formal police request for extending Metzger’s detention, Valfish wrote that Metzger had been paid hundreds of thousands of shekels to act as an agent in order to direct different parties, in Israel and abroad, to make charitable payments to different organizations and philanthropic groups.
Additionally, the rabbi is accused of taking millions of shekels for “utilizing his authority as chief rabbi, in a variety of different incidents.”
Further, Valfish wrote that Metzger had “worked to hide and obscure his identity as someone who was receiving illegal payments, [and] interfere with the investigation into the case...”
Metzger’s attorney, David Libai, noted that he had not been permitted to see documentation from the investigation and said that he was concerned that someone was seeking to slander the rabbi, since “it is totally unrealistic that he received millions [of shekels] in relation to his job.”
Libai also asked why, if the evidence was so strong, the police were concerned that Metzger could interfere with the investigation.
Speaking in court, Metzger said that the police arrived at his home at seven in the morning, conducted a search and and took him to the police station without prior notice.
“I was in their hands for seven hours... and I was not asked one question which I had not been previously asked.
They are chewing over the same material from every different side,” he said.
“And the Jew who is standing with a kippa on his head enters in the middle of the investigation and says, ‘You’re using your lack of memory; we’ll put you in detention.’ So the detention is supposed to refresh my memory?” Police raided Metzger’s home and offices back in June this year and questioned him under caution for several hours.
The former chief rabbi, along with three other men, are suspected of being involved in the alleged financial crimes.