Top lawyer in sex scandal threatens to sue reporter who exposed him

Top lawyer in sex scandal threatens to sue reporter who exposed him

Efi Nave, accused of advancing judicial appointments in exchange for sexual favors, demands NIS 5 million and an apology, a day after filing parallel criminal complaint

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)

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

The move came a day after Nave filed a parallel police complaint demanding a criminal investigation into the matter.

Nave resigned as chairman of the Israel Bar Association last week 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 Army Radio journalist Hadas 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 attorney, Boaz Ben Zur, on Monday sent a pre-suit notice letter to Army Radio managers and to its police correspondent, Shtaif, threatening to take legal action against them.

Nave is demanding NIS 5 million ($1.35 million) in compensation and an apology from the radio station and from Shtaif.

He also demanded that all the material obtained from his phone be returned within 24 hours.

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

In the letter, Nave claims the reporter’s journalistic conduct in the case has been “lacking and unacceptable,” accusing her of committing many criminal offenses in the process.

Nave also filed a criminal complaint a day earlier, with Ben Zur telling the head of the police national fraud investigation division in a letter that “taking the phone, hacking it, receiving it and holding on to it, reviewing it and leaking materials from it — all these are clear criminal offenses which require police investigation.”

“This course of events polluted the entire investigation, from top to bottom,” the complaint continued. “All the evidence which arose as a result of the illegal behavior should not be accepted by the court.”

The criminal complaint also claimed that due to the illegal circumstances under which the phone was received and hacked, all evidence gathered should be inadmissible in court.

The police complaint was filed against various figures at the Army Radio station, including Shtaif.

On Friday, 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 last week 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.

On Friday 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 on Wednesday 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.

A judge released Nave to house arrest late Wednesday, rejecting a police request to hold him in custody for three days.

Two other suspects were questioned last week, 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 on Friday 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 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.

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