Scandal Won't Mean The End for Rabbi Pinto — Or His Wife

Reporter's Notebook

haaretz

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 17, 2012, issue of October 26, 2012.
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All, however, was apparently not well. According to Israeli media reports, Pinto allegedly attempted to bribe the Israeli police official over a separate money laundering investigation in which he was a target.

Then, on October 16, Channel 10 TV’s investigative reporter, Raviv Drucker, aired a story saying that the police investigation that led indirectly to the house arrest of the Pintos had to do with, among other things, allegations that Deborah Rivka Pinto unlawfully received $1.1 million from a charity run by Pinto’s people. The reporter displayed documents, apparently lists of bank transfers, that show the money transferred from banks in the United States to her bank account in Israel. The TV report noted that Pinto and his wife were asked about this in their investigation and, according to police sources, did not deny receiving the money. Pinto’s lawyer said, in a statement, that there was no wrongdoing and that everything will become clear once the investigation is over.

This isn’t the first time that Deborah Rivka Pinto’s name has been linked to money laundering. Her father, Argentinean Chief Rabbi Shlomo Ben Hamo, filed a lawsuit in the summer of 2011, accusing his daughter and Pinto of pressuring him into serving as guarantor of a Jerusalem apartment as part of a money laundering scheme.

Ben Hamo and Pinto reached a settlement in the case in September 2011.

And, as I reported last year, Deborah Rivka Pinto’s name appears on the purchase of an expensive Manhattan apartment with Ben Zion Suky, the rabbi’s powerful right-hand man, who had been involved in the porn industry.

Deborah Rivka Pinto’s future and that of her husband are unclear. Neither has been charged with any crime. But the two are barred from leaving Israel for six months — likely a hardship for a rabbi who travels regularly to fundraise at institutions he heads around the world.

Still, Pinto has a broad and powerful base that goes far beyond businessmen like Dankner and Elzstain. The same day I visited Pinto’s townhouse, my editor was visited in the Forward’s office by a former Israeli defense ministry official who now runs a state museum and educational institution named for Yitzhak Rabin. That official had traveled all the way from Israel to vouch for Pinto in person, unbidden by us. At a different time, Israel’s consul general in Boston called my editor at Pinto’s behest.

Among the Sephardic rank-and-file Pinto has adherents, too, both in the United States and in Israel. Men on the streets of the southern Israeli city of Ashdod praise him. His photo hangs on the wall of a kosher falafel shop in Las Vegas.

I doubt we’ve heard the last of the rabbi. Or his wife.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or follow him on Twitter@joshnathankazis


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