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TV: Police probed ‘improper relations’ between Kahlon, judge he helped appoint

‘I’m alone and really want to see you’: Investigators found suggestive messages sent to finance minister by Eti Craif, already implicated in sex scandal; both deny any impropriety

Magistrate Eti Craif. (Israel Courts web site)
Magistrate Eti Craif. (Israel Courts web site)

As part of an investigation into Eti Craif, a judge suspected of granting sexual favors to secure her appointment to the court, police also probed links between her and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Channel 13 reported Monday.

In December, prosecutors announced they intended to charge Craif and Efi Nave, the former head of the Israel Bar Association, over suspicions he advocated for her judicial appointment when they were romantically involved.

Nave will be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a pre-indictment hearing, while Craif, a judge on the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, faces charges of bribery and destroying evidence, also pending a hearing.

Nave, who resigned as head of the bar association after his arrest at the beginning of last 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 — a role he is suspected of exploiting for sex.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon hold a press conference with at the Finance Ministry office in Jerusalem, September 23, 2019. (Flash90)

According to Channel 13, part of the evidence Craif destroyed included text messages with Kahlon, who was also a member of the committee, raising questions if she had a romantic relationship with Kahlon too.

Both denied any improper relationship.

Craif told police that she had asked Kahlon for a meeting ahead of the committee meeting to decide on appointments. Kahlon said he met her for ten minutes and gave her his usual answer, which was that he would support her candidacy if the judges on the committee did too.

However, Kahlon apparently did more than this, calling Nave and encouraging him to back Craif, the report said.

Police reportedly managed to reconstruct some of her deleted messages, which appeared to indicate that their relationship extended to more than just one 10-minute meeting.

“I’m alone tonight and really want to see you,” she wrote in one message to Kahlon. In another, she thanked him following her appointment: “I won’t let you down. In any way! Kisses and love.”

Craif denied a romantic involvement, telling police they were just friends, blaming her “warm, embracing style of writing” for the misunderstanding and accusing police investigators of having a dirty mind.

Kahlon told police that as a policy he responds in friendly way to every text message he receives.

Meirav Ben-Ari, a former MK from Kahlon’s Kulanu party, told Channel 12 on Wednesday that his replies to Craif’s text messages firmly but politely rebuffed Craif’s advances.

In a response to Channel 13 Kahlon said: “All the relevant information has been given to the authorities.”

There was no indication from the report that police would recommend charging Kahlon.

Police recommended in September that Nave and Craif stand trial.

According to prosecutors, Nave worked on numerous occasions to advance Craif’s appointment as a judge, despite the conflict of interest owing to his relationship with her.

A letter of suspicions sent to the pair’s lawyers said that after applying for a judicial position in 2013, Craif reached out to Nave, then head of the bar association’s Tel Aviv district, owing to his ties on the Judicial Appointments Committee.

Efi Nave in the Lod Magistrate’s Court in Lod, on April 28, 2019. (Flash90)

The two kept in touch by phone “and even had an intimate meeting at Craif’s house,” the letter said.

Prosecutors said Craif and Nave stayed in contact until his appointment as bar association head in 2015, when, being aware of his romantic interest in her and ability to advance her appointment, she “encouraged… the intimate-flirtatious connection with him.”

“The two even had an additional intimate meeting at her home, at the height of the of her judicial appointment proceeding,” according to the letter.

As she developed the “intimate relationship” between them, prosecutors said Craif asked Nave numerous times to work to advance her appointment, “in a way that bound the things to each other.”

She was eventually appointed as a judge on the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court in 2016.

Responding to the prosecutors’ decision to charge them in the case, Craif denied any wrongdoing.

“She doesn’t need any improper act to be chosen” as a judge, an attorney for Craif said.

Lawyers for Nave noted Craif’s appointment was supported by most of the selections committee and said the investigation was “born in sin.”

That comment was in reference to a civil lawsuit Nave filed in February against Army Radio and a number of its journalists who obtained his cellphone and extracted possibly incriminating messages from the device relating to the alleged sex scandal.

Police said in September that an investigation into an invasion of privacy surrounding evidence obtained by reporters from Nave’s phone as well as other computer material was completed and would be transferred to the state prosecution.

Nave will not be charged over suspicions he acted on behalf of another attorney and a legal specialist from the private sector, with whom police said he was having affairs. The names of the other two women are banned from publication under a gag order.

Nave was also indicted last year 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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