Senior legal official arrested, others questioned in judicial corruption probe

Judicial Selection Committee, including justice minister and Supreme Court chief, said to be called to testify in sealed probe; AG recused from case over friendship with suspect

The headquarters of the Israel Police's Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit in Lod. (Flash90)
The headquarters of the Israel Police's Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit in Lod. (Flash90)

A significant development was reported Wednesday morning in a corruption investigation that has shaken the Israeli legal system, as a central suspect in the case, a high-level legal official, was arrested and several others brought for questioning at the Lahav 433 anti-fraud unit.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut will be summoned to give testimony, as will the rest of the Judicial Selection Committee, which appoints judges in Israel’s top court, according to the Ynet news site.

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.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit won’t oversee the investigation as he is a close friend of the central suspect, the Walla news site reported. Instead, State Attorney Shai Nitzan will oversee it.

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

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

The case, details of which are gagged under a strict court order, is said to have become the talk of the town within the judicial system in recent weeks.

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)

The gag order was extended by a full month on Monday. Earlier this month, the head of the Israel Anti Fraud Unit, Yoav Telem, himself came to court in a rare move to request the sweeping gag order. Further details could be cleared for publication sometime on Wednesday, according to the reports.

Senior officials in the legal system are 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.

Few officials know exactly what is being investigated, according to Ynet. Those who do know the details include Shaked, Hayut and Nitzan.

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