Suspicions former top lawyer helped intern pass bar exam in exchange for sex

Suspicions former top lawyer helped intern pass bar exam in exchange for sex

Police question woman as witness over whether scandal-plagued Efi Nave also helped her find a job in return for sex; intern said to deny she received benefits from relationship

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)

A legal intern was questioned on Friday by police amid suspicions that former judicial official Efi Nave helped her pass the bar exam and find a job in exchange for sex, Hebrew-language media reported.

The scandal-plagued Nave announced his resignation on Thursday as head of the Israel Bar Association following allegations that as a member of the state’s judge-appointing body, he traded his influence for sex and helped jurists advance in their careers in return.

The legal intern confirmed to police that she had been in close contact with Nave recently, Haaretz reported, but denied that he had helped her in any way.

According to police, the woman was questioned as a witness regarding events that occurred in 2017.

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

Nave’s relationship with the intern was discovered by police after investigators seized his phone and uncovered old text messages between the two.

The intern’s phone was seized as well, Haaretz reported. Her lawyer said they would be petitioning the court over the confiscation of the device.

Nave was arrested by police Wednesday and has been questioned at the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit for allegedly nominating a female judge to a magistrate’s court several years ago, reportedly in exchange for sex.

Illustrative: The offices of Israel Police’s Lahav 433 Unit in Lod. (Flash 90)

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.

Also on Wednesday, two other suspects were questioned, 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 investigation was reportedly opened after veteran Army Radio journalist Hadas Shteif provided information to police. The case has become the talk of the town within the judicial system in recent weeks.

Police on Friday defended their handling of the criminal probe amid allegations that evidence in the case was improperly acquired. The statement came in the wake of accusations that key evidence was obtained from an old phone of Nave’s that was stolen.

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.

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.

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

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.

On Wednesday, the Bar Association offices in Jerusalem were raided 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.

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.

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)

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

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 Nave’s faction announced their resignation Tuesday, saying they can no longer serve under his leadership, the Calcalist newspaper reported.

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

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