Head of Israel Bar Association named as top lawyer in sex scandal

Head of Israel Bar Association named as top lawyer in sex scandal

Effi Naveh, suspected of advancing judicial appointments for sexual favors, released to house arrest

Israel Bar Association former chairman Efi Nave (center) at a Tel Aviv court on January 16, 2019 (Koko/Pool/Flash90)
Israel Bar Association former chairman Efi Nave (center) at a Tel Aviv court on January 16, 2019 (Koko/Pool/Flash90)

A senior lawyer suspected of advancing judicial appointments in exchange for sexual favors was named Wednesday night as Israel Bar Association head Effi Naveh.

As head of the Bar Association, Naveh has one of nine seats on the powerful Judicial Appointments Committee, which decides on placement and promotions for judges in Israel’s three-tiered judicial system. The position gave him an outsized voice in helping jurists advance in their careers, a role police suspect he exploited for sex.

Naveh was arrested earlier Wednesday and questioned by police investigators for allegedly nominating a female judge to a magistrate’s court several years ago, reportedly in exchange for sexual favors.

He is also suspected of having sexual relations with the wife of another judge, for the purpose of helping her husband advance from a magistrate’s court to a district court position — a promotion that didn’t come to fruition.

His name had been sealed for much of the day, amid rampant rumors over the identity of the suspects.

A judge released Naveh to house arrest late Wednesday, rejecting a police request to order him to remain in custody for three days.

Two other suspects were questioned on Wednesday, a female magistrate’s court judge and a female lawyer, police said, clearing for publication some details of the case, much of which remains under gag order. Hebrew-language media said the latter was married to a judge.

The judge who was questioned will reportedly take a leave of absence, as will Naveh, who was indicted last month on suspicion that he smuggled a female acquaintance out the country for a trip abroad and then tried to slip her back unregistered through border control.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (R) and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut on February 22, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut, who co-chair the panel, will be summoned to give testimony, as will the rest of the committee, according to reports.

The other members of the committee are Supreme Court judges Hanan Melcer and Neal Hendel, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Bar Association member Ilana Seker, and MKs Robert Ilatov and Nurit Koren.

“This is a rough day for me as justice minister and as a woman,” Shaked said at a conference in Tel Aviv on women in business earlier in the day.

The Israel Bar Association offices in Jerusalem were raided Wednesday by police and closed to the public, the Ynet news site reported. Witnesses were summoned for questioning and documents and computer files were collected, police said in a statement.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit reportedly won’t oversee the investigation as he is a close friend of Naveh. Instead, State Attorney Shai Nitzan will oversee it along with his deputy.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, right, speaks with Israel Bar Association Chairman Effi Naveh during an event in Tel Aviv om November 9, 2017. (Flash90)

Nitzan — whose approval is necessary to arrest an official such as the central suspect — personally authorized the arrests and questioning.

Senior officials in the legal system were said to be increasingly worried by the developments in the case, which has spawned many rumors and mostly false social media conspiracy theories.

Three allies of Bar Association head Naveh announced their resignation Tuesday, saying they can no longer serve under his leadership, the Calcalist newspaper reported.

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