Sensitive material from phone of disgraced ex-Israeli bar chief said leaked

Report says correspondence between Efi Nave, top legal officials, and politicians reached figures with ties to criminal organizations, raising blackmail fears

Israel Bar Association former chairman Efi Nave is seen at a Tel Aviv court on January 16, 2019. (Koko/Pool/Flash90)
Israel Bar Association former chairman Efi Nave is seen at a Tel Aviv court on January 16, 2019. (Koko/Pool/Flash90)

Thousands of files stored on the cellphone of the former head of the Israel Bar Association have reportedly been leaked, fueling worries that sensitive data that could be used to blackmail public officials is now in the hands of malicious actors.

Data from Efi Nave’s phone, which has been in the custody of law enforcement for much of the past year, has ended up in the hands of several undisclosed entities, including some with links to criminal organizations, Channel 13 reported Tuesday. The leaked data is said to include communications with senior judicial officials, top politicians, and members of the press.

Prosecutors announced earlier this month that they intended to charge Nave with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, over allegations that he misused his position to advocate for the judicial appointment of Eti Craif, a judge on the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, with whom he was romantically involved.

Nave, who resigned as head of the bar association after his arrest at the beginning of the year, was one of the nine members of the powerful Judicial Appointments Committee, which decides on placement and promotions for judges in Israel’s three-tiered judicial system. The position gave him outsize influence in helping lawyers advance in their careers.

Magistrate Eti Craif, whose name was released for publication by the Supreme Court. (Israel Courts web site)

According to Channel 13, the leaked data could be used to prejudice judges during court proceedings, help parties to legal disputes mentioned in the correspondence and reveal the sources of journalists reporting on legal issues.

Asked for comment, the State Attorney’s office told Channel 13 that it was “unaware” of the leaks, adding that there is a gag order on any data from Nave’s phone.

“I don’t get it. How did it happen? How does it leak? Do you know what kind of stuff I have there? It’s crazy,” Nave told the network, saying that the leak was either from the police or the prosecutor’s office.

Law enforcement reportedly acted against Nave after being tipped off in early 2019 by Army Radio journalist Hadas Shtaif, who received his old phone, apparently arranged for it to be hacked, and then reviewed its contents. What she found led her to hand the phone over to police, who then opened an investigation.

Nave has argued that the information from his phone was improperly obtained and in January, he filed a civil lawsuit against Army Radio and several of its journalists, demanding NIS 7 million ($1.9 million) in compensation.

In the claim, Nave said Shtaif acted “in a manner that is difficult to reconcile with any journalistic or legal criteria,” and has asserted that the manner in which the phone’s contents were obtained invalidates their use by the police and prosecutors.

Police have said that all evidence from the phone was properly acquired with court approval and the Haaretz daily reported in January that the state prosecutor granted Shtaif immunity from prosecution. Military prosecutors who advise the radio station were initially worried that she may have broken the law, but after consulting with state prosecutors, it was decided to use the information from the phone due to its importance to the public, the report said.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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