Senior lawyer held, reportedly for promoting judge in exchange for sex

Suspect allegedly had sexual relationship with judge he helped appoint, also said to have had sex with wife of another judge he tried to promote; top legal officials to testify

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative. A man's hands in handcuffs. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Illustrative. A man's hands in handcuffs. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A top Israeli attorney was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of advancing the appointment of judges in exchange for sex in a corruption investigation that has shaken the legal system.

The main suspect, who cannot be named, has been questioned at the Lahav 433 anti-fraud unit for allegedly nominating a female judge to a magistrate’s court several years ago, reportedly in exchange for sex.

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 plan that didn’t come to fruition.

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 which is mainly under gag order. Hebrew-language media said the latter was married to a judge.

The investigation was reportedly opened after veteran Army Radio journalist Hadas Shteif provided information to police on the case. The case, further details of which are gagged under a court order, has become the talk of the town within the judicial system in recent weeks.

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 — both members of the Judicial Selection Committee — will be summoned to give testimony, as will the rest of the committee, which appoints judges in Israel courts, Hebrew-language media reported.

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

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 the central suspect. Instead, State Attorney Shai Nitzan will oversee it along with his deputy, .

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

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, left, and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan at a conference of the Justice Ministry in Tel Aviv, December 21, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

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.

Meanwhile, three members of Bar Association Chairman Effi Naveh’s faction announced their resignation Tuesday, saying they can no longer serve under his leadership, the Calcalist newspaper reported.

Attorney Effi Naveh, chairman of the Israel Bar Association, seen here when he was the IBA Tel Aviv district chief, April 24, 2013. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Naveh 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.

Naveh was indicted on charges of jointly gaining illegal exit and entry to the country as well as jointly taking a bribe.

The Judicial Selection Committee has expressed fear that alleged corruption within the judiciary could severely harm public trust in the system.

Most Popular
read more: