Senior Israeli Police Official Resigns in Rabbi Pinto Bribery Probe - The Jewish Voice
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Senior Israeli Police Official Resigns in Rabbi Pinto Bribery Probe

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Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto is the target of an investigation by the FBI and the Justice Ministry in Israel on alleged bribery charges
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto is the target of an investigation by the FBI and the Justice Ministry in Israel on alleged bribery charges
As the scandal surrounding Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto’s alleged involvement in bribery continues to fester, the Jerusalem Post reported that Menashe Arbiv, the head of the elite Lahav 433 unit of the Israel Police, announced his resignation on Sunday, Feb 9.

Arbiv’s resignation comes on the heels of an investigation by the FBI in the United States. In January, a gag order on the corruption case was lifted. At that time it was revealed that Arbiv, whose former unit is popularly called “the Israeli FBI,” was also the subject of a probe by the Justice Ministry unit that investigates crimes by police, according to a Jerusalem Post report.

The allegations deal with the time that Arbiv was serving as Israel Police attaché in New York and purportedly taking bribes from Rabbi Pinto and his associates.

Speaking from the office his lawyer Gideon Fisher in Tel Aviv, Arbiv said, “I cannot accept the measures in progress against me. I am choosing to stop the witch hunt and have decided to retire from the Israeli Police after 36 years of service.”

The Vois Es Nais web site reported that Arbiv was harshly critical of officials handling the investigation, charging that they cut a deal with Rabbi Pinto for immunity without ever having taken his side of the story.

“A person suspected of serious crimes contacted the police and invented false information in order to avoid prosecution himself,” Arbiv said. “The state was willing to grant him immunity without asking me. I cannot put up with this. I would like the opportunity to tell my side of the story.”

An associate of Rabbi Pinto expressed concern that Arbiv was trying to skirt prosecution, and said that the rabbi hoped the police would not pass up this chance to uncover police corruption.

According to the allegations, Arbiv was one of multiple senior police officers who took bribes from Rabbi Pinto in exchange for information on other cases in which the rabbi was involved.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Pinto is a well-known rabbi both in Israel and the US, a descendant of two Sephardi rabbinical dynasties, and the founder of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva. He was listed as the seventh-richest rabbi in Israel last year by Forbes Israel and has served as an adviser to a group of Israel’s elite.

The paper also reported that Pinto’s lawyers have approached the ministry offering information on alleged bribery and improper actions taken by top police officials, in exchange for leniency.

The Jerusalem Post learned that the ministry said it would review the information and that if it were of sufficient interest – meaning it could lead to criminal charges – it would grant the rabbi some measure of leniency.

Origins of the Case

Since 2010, Rabbi Pinto has been the target of a case that the FBI has been investigating against Rep. Michael Grimm (R) who serves parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn in his congressional capacity. Israel National News has reported that Grimm is under investigation for alleged illegal donations to his 2010 congressional campaign. During the campaign, INN reported that Grimm received support from Ofer Biton, who at the time was one of the Rabbi Pinto’s top aides. Biton was later accused of having embezzled millions of dollars from Rabbi Pinto’s congregation.

INN also reported that Grimm and Biton allegedly accepted contributions from wealthy individuals connected to Rabbi Pinto in violation of campaign law. Among other things, they allegedly took large cash donations, and accepted donations from foreigners without green cards.

According to the INN report, Rabbi Pinto has reportedly leveled his own charges against Grimm, claiming that Grimm’s associates attempted to blackmail him if he did not encourage his followers to donate to Grimm’s campaign.

Rabbi Pinto turned witness in the FBI case. While there are conflicting reports regarding what followed, all parties seem to agree that the FBI case was complicated by a bribery case in Israel against Rabbi Pinto.

Around the time that Rabbi Pinto agreed to testify for the FBI, he allegedly attempted to bribe a senior police officer in Israel, Ephraim Bracha. Bracha reported the alleged bribe to his superiors immediately, and is not facing charges in the incident.

INN also reported that other sources, quoted by Mako, accused Congressman Grimm of involvement in the Israeli case, saying that Grimm is trying to use his influence in Israel to hurt Rabbi Pinto, in order to undermine the investigation into his own activities in America.

According to the report, a former Israeli minister who was apparently speaking on Grimm’s behalf made an attempt to convince Rabbi Pinto not to testify against Grimm.

The FBI surveillance of Rabbi Pinto over the charges involving Grimm reportedly meant that American agents collected much of the evidence that led to the latest corruption charges.

Arbiv alleged that he had invited police to call him in for questioning so he could answer the charges against him, adding that they had dismissed the request.

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