Arrested ex-chief rabbi allegedly stashed cash in books

Police say they have two new witnesses to alleged corruption by Yona Metzger, including one of his associates

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger (L) and Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, March 11, 2013. (photo credit: Flash 90)
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger (L) and Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, March 11, 2013. (photo credit: Flash 90)

A police investigation into shady dealings surrounding former chief rabbi Yona Metzger turned up troves of hidden cash, according to media reports.

Police arrested Metzger Monday at the culmination of a long investigation into a litany of financial crimes involving millions of shekels.

Police say they have recruited two new witnesses against Metzger, one of which is an associate of his, according to Israel daily Maariv.

The police investigation revealed that Metzger stashed €150,000 (about $200,000) with his sister in Haifa, and a search of his home turned up NIS 40,000 ($11,300) in cash hidden in various books, according to Channel 10. Metzger contends that the money in Haifa came from an inheritance, but according to the investigation, his claim is not true.

For his part, Metzger contends that the police have no new evidence against him.

“At 7 in the morning they came to my house, conducted a search and took me to the police station, without prior notification, of course,” Metzger said according to Maariv. “I’ve been in their custody for seven hours and not one question has been asked on one topic that I wasn’t asked about before. And one Jew wearing a kippa on his head came in the middle of the questioning and said: “You’re using your memory loss? We’ll put you in detention.” As if the detention would refresh my memory?”

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. Police maintained a partial gag order on some details of the case and although initial news of an arrest broke Monday morning, it was only in the afternoon that Metzger’s name was released. The court extended his remand for 10 days.

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

In addition to profiting from donations to charitable causes, he is also suspected of taking bribes to sway his opinion on matters he attended to 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, chose to resign his position.

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