Senior rabbinate official arrested on kashrut bribery suspicions

Suspect allegedly expedited approval for importers who offered kickbacks; 4 others arrested, 8 more questioned

Illustrative photo of a kashrut supervisor in a warehouse. March 20, 2016. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90)
Illustrative photo of a kashrut supervisor in a warehouse. March 20, 2016. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90)

A top official in the Israeli state rabbinate’s kashrut inspection arm was arrested Monday on suspicion of accepting bribes.

According to police, the official is suspected of “receiving on a large number of occasions bribes and other benefits, in exchange for benefits he illegally gave to others as part of his duties.”

Four more individuals were arrested in the case. None of the suspects have been named.

The five suspects allegedly gave and accepted money from food importing companies in order to prioritize their requests to approve foreign kashrut certifications for products they sought to bring into Israel.

Israel’s chief rabbinate must approve the kashrut certification of any imported foods marketed in Israel as kosher.

Police say there is no suspicion that nonkosher foods were sold in Israel under pretenses of being kosher, but only that the approval process for products imported by companies or individuals that offered kickbacks was expedited.

Investigators raided the homes and offices of the suspects, and reportedly found hundreds of thousands of shekels in cash.

Eight more individuals were detained and questioned about the case on Monday, but were not arrested.

The investigation is being conducted jointly by the Israel Police’s anti-graft unit Lahav 433, Tax Authority officials, and the State Prosecution’s economic crimes division.

The Walla news site quoted a rabbinate official slamming the suspects over the allegations, saying their alleged crimes had slowed the approval process for all imported foods. “Every citizen [of Israel] paid out of their pockets for these bribes, it delayed [kashrut approval for] all other products,” the official was quoted as saying.

The rabbinate issued a statement to the media calling the senior official implicated in the case “dedicated and professional.” It added: “The rabbinate trusts the law enforcement agencies, hopes they will conclude their investigation as quickly as possible, and wishes for the official that he be found innocent of all suspicions.”

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