Former chief rabbi allegedly offered friend hush money

Yona Metzger, who gave up his position earlier this year, faces a laundry list of corruption charges

Former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger, in Jerusalem, on July 17, 2013. (photo credit:Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger, in Jerusalem, on July 17, 2013. (photo credit:Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police on Thursday said they have evidence against Yona Metzger indicating that the former chief rabbi offered a friend large sums of cash not to testify against him.

Metzger was brought before the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court Monday and charged with offenses that included fraud, bribery, money laundering, breach of trust, obstruction of justice and tampering with witnesses.

According to an Israel Radio report Thursday, Metzger was recorded offering an unnamed colleague — who has become a state’s witness in the case against the rabbi — cash and an apartment if he did not testify.

Police obtained the evidence against Metzger during a covert investigation after the witness signed a deal with authorities.

Police said the investigation was carried out over several months by its corruption and organized crime department, known as Unit 433, and involved the tax authorities and the Jerusalem district attorney.

The court granted a police request to remand Metzger in custody for 10 days.

According to the allegations, various nonprofit organizations connected with the rabbi during his term in office received millions of shekels in donations, some of which Metzger allegedly siphoned off for his own personal use.

In addition, he is suspected of receiving bribes to sway his opinion on matters to which he attended in his capacity as chief rabbi.

Police reportedly continued to monitor Metzger following his initial house arrest earlier this year, during which time he allegedly tried to obstruct the investigation against him and tamper with witnesses.

The investigation became public in June 2013 when Metzger, who was at the time still the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, was placed under house arrest. While proclaiming his innocence, Metzger, whose 10-year term as chief rabbi was months away from its conclusion, resigned his position.

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