(Haaretz) — The Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct is investigating the head of one of the police’s most prestigious units on suspicion of taking bribes from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto and from businessmen who are disciples of the rabbi.
The investigative material in the case has been given to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, as well as to Pinto’s lawyers. The suspect is Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, the head of Lahav 433, a unit popularly known as the Israeli FBI. This department includes the fraud squad, the serious and international crimes unit and the financial investigations unit.
The case began in May 2011, when Arviv was appointed Israel’s police attaché in the United States. At that time, Israeli and American police were conducting a joint investigation into Pinto in connection with a nonprofit organization called Hazon Yeshaya, which he headed.
While serving in this position, Arviv developed connections with many influential Israelis, including businessman Ben Zion Suky, who lives in Manhattan and is one of Pinto’s disciples. Police now suspect that Suky and Arviv, with Pinto’s knowledge, developed a relationship in which Suky gave Arviv and his family various benefits. This was not a one-time event, but something that occurred repeatedly over the course of years.
While Arviv was still in the United States, Lahav 433 — the unit he now heads — arrested Pinto and his wife on suspicion of trying to bribe another police officer, Ephraim Bracha. The Pintos were arrested on October 2012 on the basis of evidence that they had given Bracha 200,000 shekels ($57,000) in exchange for information about the Hazon Yeshaya investigation.
Pinto claimed that Bracha was one of his disciples, and that he often gave the officer money to help him and his family. But while police don’t deny that Bracha was one of Pinto’s disciples, they insist he remained loyal to the police, and the moment he understood that the money was meant as a bribe, he reported it to the then-head of the investigations and intelligence department, Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich. It was that report that led to Pinto’s arrest.
But Pinto stuck to his story, and even expanded on it: He said he had told the FBI — which had questioned the rabbi as a witness in an investigation involving a U.S. congressman — that he regularly gave money to a senior Israeli police officer, and that he had even named Bracha as the recipient. He said he also told the FBI that another Israeli police officer, of even higher rank than Bracha, knew about these money transfers. That officer, Pinto said, was Arviv, who also allegedly received various benefits from him.