The Attorney General’s Office has warned Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau that he is in danger of being in contempt of court orders, for halting the work of a panel of rabbis examining potential corruption in Jerusalem religious trusts, according to a report Saturday.
Unnamed sources quoted by Haaretz claimed Lau had removed a panel member overseeing the trusts and had failed to replace him, preventing the committee from working. They accused Lau of attempting to prevent further investigations into the trusts.
Lau last year removed Rabbi Shlomo Stessman from the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem after he investigated alleged acts of corruption in trusts managing properties intended for religious purposes (“hekdeshot”), Haaretz reported.
Stessman suspected managers of the Etz Chaim trust had illegally dealt in properties, selling them cheaply to their relatives and even buying them themselves. The investigations he oversaw eventually led in 2019 to the arrest of five members of the trust on suspicion of acts of corruption.
In 2018 at the height of the probe into Etz Chaim, Lau reassigned Stessman to a post in Tel Aviv, and was accused by some of attempting to thwart his investigations. The matter eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that Stessman could be reassigned so long as he was allowed to continue oversight of several Jerusalem trusts under review.
But according to the newspaper report, Lau recently removed another member of Stessman’s panel, Rabbi Ido Shachar, and had failed to replace him, blocking the panel from continuing its work.
In light of this, deputy attorneys general Raz Nazri and Erez Kamenetz sent a letter to Lau this week warning that his actions were stymieing court orders from being carried out and could amount to contempt of court.