Top cop allegedly took thousands from popular rabbi

Top cop allegedly took thousands from popular rabbi

Benefits purportedly received by Menashe Arviv include monthly stipend, assistance for son in acquiring US residency

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto (Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90).
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto (Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90).

A top anti-corruption police official allegedly received thousands of dollars and help buying a home in the US from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, according to documents released for publication Sunday.

Among other benefits allegedly deriving from his relationship with the popular US-Israeli rabbi, Menashe Arviv is accused of receiving assistance in obtaining US residency for his son, and a monthly stipend of two thousand dollars when he encountered economic hardship, according to the court documents. Arviv has insisted that he “never received any illegal benefits” from Pinto.

According to Ben Zion Suki, a businessman close to Pinto, Arviv asked the rabbi to help him receive a discount of hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to purchase an apartment in a project managed by one of Pinto’s associates, accordong to a report in Walla.

The investigation of Pinto, a kabbalist with a large and influential international following, grabbed headlines in Israel last month after his lawyers alleged to the State Attorney’s Office in mid-January that Arviv, who was director of the national crime and corruption investigation unit known as Lahav 433, received benefits from businessmen associated with the rabbi. The lawyers offered the information in the hope of securing immunity from criminal charges for Pinto in an investigation against him over a charity fund.

Menashe Arviv announces his retirement from the Israel Police, February 9, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Menashe Arviv announces his retirement from the Israel Police, February 9, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

The scandal caused Arviv to take an extended vacation and then, last week, to resign after 36 years of service in the police, while proclaiming his innocence.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that he had accepted the recommendation of the State Attorney’s Office that Pinto be charged for allegedly offering a $200,000 bribe to Deputy Inspector General Ephraim Bracha in return for information about an investigation into the Hayim Yoshiyahu charity fund to which police allege he was connected.

Weinstein said that a decision over a potential indictment against Arviv had not yet been made, and that suspicions against the former policeman may focus only on charges of unbecoming behavior, in which case his recent resignation would be taken into consideration.

Since 2011, Pinto, 39, who heads several charity organizations and Torah study institutions in the coastal city of Ashdod and in the US, has been the subject of a number of ongoing investigations, both by Israeli police and the FBI.

The rabbi — whose followers include Jay Schottenstein, chairman of the American Eagle Outfitters clothing company, and Israeli real estate mogul Jacky Ben-Zaken — is suspected of embezzlement of funds from an organization he oversaw. According to FBI suspicions, he was also the target of a blackmail attempt.

In 2012, Pinto was arrested by the police’s internal affairs division after his wife was documented transferring a briefcase to Bracha, who headed the investigation bureau at the time.

In the briefcase was $200,000 in cash, police discovered. Some reports said that Bracha accepted the briefcase as part of a sting operation, and there was no indication that he was under investigation for receiving it from Pinto’s wife.

In late 2011, while the police were conducting the initial probe into Pinto’s dealings, Arviv was appointed as the Israel Police’s envoy in the US. While living in New York, Arviv formed relationships with a number of businessmen who were considered close to Pinto, Haaretz reported. Later, according to Israeli police and FBI suspicions, Arviv received unspecified benefits from family members of one of those businessmen.

Meanwhile, Pinto was being questioned by the FBI, after he was allegedly blackmailed by businessmen who threatened to reveal medical information about his family. Pinto reportedly approached Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY), a veteran FBI agent, and asked him for assistance. Grimm was later suspected by the FBI of taking part in the alleged blackmail plot.

Pinto told the FBI that after Grimm became a suspect in the case, several senior Israeli officers and former government ministers approached Pinto and demanded that he not testify against the congressman.

Pinto admitted to transferring funds to Bracha, and stated that other senior officers, among them Arviv, had known of the transfer. His testimony raised concerns in the FBI that Israeli officials were attempting to obstruct the investigation.

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