Police on Friday defended their handling of a criminal probe involving the former head of the Israel Bar Association amid allegations that evidence in the case was improperly acquired.
Efi Nave, who is suspected of advancing judicial appointments in exchange for sexual favors, announced his resignation Thursday as chairman of the Bar Association following his arrest and interrogation by police investigators.
“All the relevant investigative activities were done lawfully, while balancing between the different interests concerning the case,” police said.
The police statement came in the wake of accusations that key evidence was obtained from an old phone of Nave’s that was stolen.
“This is a phone that was stolen,” Nave’s lawyer Boaz Ben Tzur told Hadashot TV news. “We don’t know by whom. We have some guesses but the police are checking.”
Ben Tzur addressed reports that a reporter for Army Radio who first obtained the phone and had it broken into received immunity in exchange for handing over the mobile device.
“The first question is admissibility. What is the standing of an investigation that began with [evidentiary] material that was acquired illegally?” he said.
“There is also the public aspect,” Ben Tzur continued. “Is it okay to take the personal phone of a person with all the private messages, that everything be in the hands of a reporter or the police? Is this a proper act?”
According to the Haaretz daily, the phone was Nave’s old cellular device and was located inside a safe at his former home, which he moved out of after separating from his second wife.
The phone was later given to Army Radio reporter Hadas Shtaif.
In their statement Friday, police stressed the case was being overseen by the State Prosecutor’s Office and that investigators had received permission from a court to review some of the evidence.
Nave was arrested on Wednesday and questioned by police investigators for allegedly nominating a female judge to a magistrate’s court several years ago 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 never came through.
As head of the Bar Association, Nave held 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 outsize voice in helping jurists advance in their careers, a role police suspect he exploited for sex.
A judge released Nave to house arrest late Wednesday, rejecting a police request to hold him 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.
The judge who was questioned will reportedly take a leave of absence.
The affairs follows closely on the heels of another scandal for Nave, who was indicted last month on suspicion that he smuggled a female acquaintance out of the country for a trip abroad and then tried to slip her back unregistered through border control.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut, who co-chair the Judicial Appointments Committee, 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 justices Hanan Melcer and Neal Hendel, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Bar Association member Ilana Seker, and MKs Robert Ilatov and Nurit Koren.