Top lawyer in sex scandal sues reporters, media outlet who exposed him for $1.9m

Efi Nave, accused of advancing judicial appointments in exchange for sexual favors, demands compensation, saying journalists examined sensitive information from his ‘stolen’ phone

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

The former head of the Israel Bar Association, Efi Nave, on Monday filed a civil lawsuit against Army Radio and a number of its journalists who obtained his cellphone and extracted possibly incriminating messages from the device relating to an alleged sex scandal that has rocked the judiciary system.

Nave is demanding NIS 7 million ($1.9 million) in compensation from the radio station via the Defense Ministry, as well as journalists Hadas Shtaif, Razi Barkai, Nurit Canetti, Ilil Shahar and station manager Shimon Elkabetz.

In the claim, Nave said Shtaif acted “in a manner that is difficult to reconcile with any journalistic or legal criteria,” the Calcalist news site reported.

“Contrary to the law and through a series of criminal offenses, all the private conversations of the plaintiff, all the communications he conducted — his personal life, in full — were revealed to the defendants, listeners of Army Radio and to other media outlets,” read the claim.

Army Radio reporter Hadas Shtaif in 2013 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Nave said in the suit that Shtaif knowingly handled “ostensibly stolen” property and searched through his personal information. The suit does not reveal who passed the phone to Shtaif .

“In doing so, the defendants searched every corner of the plaintiff’s life: his correspondence with his underage children, his company and his clients (in violation of attorney-client confidentiality) and a long list of people including ministers, Knesset members, judges, law enforcement officials and more.”

The move comes after Nave filed a parallel police complaint against various figures at Army Radio, including Shtaif, demanding a criminal investigation into the matter.

Nave resigned as chairman of the Israel Bar Association last month following his arrest and interrogation by police investigators on suspicion of having advanced judicial appointments in exchange for sexual favors.

Police reportedly acted after being tipped off by Shtaif, who received Nave’s 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’s criminal complaint claimed that due to the illegal circumstances under which the phone was received and hacked, all evidence gathered should be inadmissible in court.

Last month police said that all evidence from the phone was properly acquired with court approval.

Former top attorney Efi Nave, suspected of committing sexual bribery, arrives for questioning by police at the Lahav 433 fraud unit in Lod, January 16, 2019. (Flash90)

“All the relevant investigative activities were done lawfully, while balancing between the different interests concerning the case,” police said.

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.

In January, a law enforcement source told Hadashot news that none of the evidence or testimony that police have gathered so far has dispelled the suspicions against the key suspects.

The source said investigators have obtained additional material, aside from that from confiscated phones or computers, and the new material strengthens the suspicions.

Nave was arrested and questioned by police investigators for allegedly nominating a female judge to a magistrate’s court several years ago in exchange for sexual favors.

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.

Two other suspects were also questioned, a female magistrate’s court judge and a female lawyer, police said at the time. The judge who was questioned will reportedly take a leave of absence.

In addition, a legal intern was questioned by police amid suspicions that Nave helped her pass the bar exam and find a job in exchange for sex, Hebrew-language media reported at the time.

The affair follows closely on the heels of another scandal for Nave, who was indicted the previous 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.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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