For the first time ever, a former chief rabbi of Israel was charged with fraud on Monday for his suspected part in a bonus-scam that allegedly swindled hundreds of millions of shekels from the government in civil servants’ wages.
Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron is suspected of being involved in the scam, known as “the rabbis’ case,” which included the issuing of false rabbinic credentials to over 1,000 police and security services employees. The extra honorific entitled them to wage bonuses of NIS 2,000-4,000 ($530-$1060) a month.
As a result the government paid out hundreds of million of additional shekels to the civil servants.
The case marks the first time that a chief rabbi of Israel has been indicted.
Bakshi-Doron served as Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel from 1998 to 2003 and, as head of the Chief Rabbinical Council of Israel, authorized the issuance of the rabbinic credentials.
According to the indictment, many of those who were issued with the bonus-earning credentials did not come close to having the necessary qualifications. However, Bakshi-Doron, 72, admitted ordering officials to “turn a blind eye” and rubber-stamp the necessary paperwork.
In 2007 indictments were served against 10 individuals involved in the ongoing investigation. According to Maariv, although he was questioned at the time, investigators decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Bakshi-Doron for any wrongdoing. However, at a later date, while giving testimony in court during the trial of those who were charged, the rabbi contradicted some of his earlier statements, whereupon the attorney general decided to press charges.