A former chief rabbi of Israel was convicted of fraud on Monday for his part in a bonus-scam that allegedly swindled hundreds of millions of shekels from the government in civil servants’ wages.
The Jerusalem District Court found Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron guilty of fraud offenses including fraud in aggravated circumstances, falsifying documents, and breach of trust.
He is the second former chief rabbi to be convicted of fraud this year after former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger pleaded guilty to fraud, theft, conspiracy, breach of trust, money laundering, tax offenses and accepting bribes involving some NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) under a plea bargain.
Metzger is currently serving a 3.5-year prison sentence at Ma’asiyahu Prison in the central Israeli town of Ramle.
Bakshi-Doron was indicted in 2012 over his involvement 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.
Bakshi-Doron’s initial indictment was a first for a chief rabbi of Israel. He served as Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel from 1993 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, 76, 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. Although Bakshi-Doron was questioned at the time, investigators decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute him for any wrongdoing. However, at a later date, while giving testimony as a prosecution witness in court during the trial of those who were charged, the rabbi contradicted some of his earlier statements to police, whereupon the attorney general decided to press charges.
A date has not yet been set for sentencing deliberations.