Top corruption-busting cop resigns over bribery ‘witch hunt’

Menashe Arviv says he is fed up legal system, media are deaf to his defense against allegations he took payments from rabbi

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Menashe Arviv announces his retirement from the Israel Police, February 9, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Menashe Arviv announces his retirement from the Israel Police, February 9, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Israel Police Maj.-Gen. Menashe Arviv, the top police officer who is at the center of an alleged bribe scandal involving a prominent rabbi, announced his resignation from the police force on Sunday citing unfair treatment at the hands of the legal system and the media.

At a press conference held at his legal counsel’s offices in Tel Aviv, Arviv, who three weeks ago took leave from his position as the director of the national crime and corruption investigation unit known as Lahav 433 due to the bribe allegations, spoke of the pressure he and his family have faced.

“I can no longer tolerate the conduct of the legal system that is rolling me and my family in feathers and tar,” Arviv said. “I have decided to end the witch hunt and therefore I have decided to leave the Israel Police.”

Arviv, who appeared in civilian clothes and not in his police uniform, noted that over the past month he repeatedly asked to be allowed to give his version of suspicions that he received payments from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, a charismatic, influential Kabbalist with powerful connections in Israel’s business community.

“I have several times appealed to the attorney general, the state attorney and police commissioner [Yohanan Danino] and asked them to call me in for investigation so that I can respond to every accusation against me,” said Arviv who served for 36 years in the police. “I have been sitting at home for about a month and no one has contacted me. No one has asked for my version.”

Although he did not name anyone in particular, Arviv launched a bitter attack on an alleged behind the scenes deal in which information about pay offs to the policeman was relayed to state prosecutors by representatives of Pinto in an attempt to secure immunity for the rabbi from possible criminal charges that could arise from a separate, ongoing investigation.

“It seems that someone, and everyone knows who we are talking about, who is facing serious charges, approached the attorney general and offered him false information,” he said.

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto (photo credit: Shuva Yisrael/Flash90)
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto (photo credit: Shuva Yisrael/Flash90)

Since 2011, Pinto, 39, who heads several charity organizations and Torah study institutions in the coastal city of Ashdod and in the US, has been the subject of a number of ongoing investigations, both by Israeli police and the FBI. The rabbi — among whose followers are Jay Schottenstein, chairman of the American Eagle Outfitters clothing company, and Israeli real estate mogul Jacky Ben-Zaken — is suspected of embezzlement of funds from an organization he oversaw. According to FBI suspicions, he was also the target of a blackmail attempt.

In 2012, Pinto was arrested by the Police Investigations Department after his wife was documented transferring a briefcase to the unit’s Deputy Inspector General Ephraim Bracha, who headed the PID’s investigations bureau at the time. In the briefcase was NIS 200,000 ($57,400) in cash, police discovered. Some reports said that Bracha accepted the briefcase as part of a sting operation, and there was no indication that he was under investigation for receiving it from Pinto’s wife.

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