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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

FBI implicates Israeli gov't minister in Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto affair

Information reaching the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicates that an Israeli minister is involved in the Israel Police investigation of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, as well as the investigation of a Congressman underway in the US.

The link between the FBI investigation, in which Pinto is a key witness, his investigation in Israel, and suspicions of misconduct at the very top of Israel Police (about which we are not at liberty to expand at this stage), are at the heart of the decision awaiting Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

According to recent reports, Weinstein received new information, shortly before he was set to make a decision regarding Pinto’s indictment. Pinto is suspected of bribing a senior police officer.

The officer in question is Brigadier General Ephraim Bracha, who was appointed head of the National Fraud Investigations Unit only a few months ago. Bracha was in close contact with Rabbi Pinto for many years, and even provided testimony during Pinto’s investigation - despite the fact that the testimony was delivered to investigators under his command.

However, alongside the allegations and suspicions against senior officials in the Israel Police, the affair involves even greater involvement among of senior government officials. This involvement includes, among other things, protecting the interests of Congressman Michael Grimm, a Republican with close ties to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is known for his staunch support of Israeli government interests in Congress.

This is the background for the involvement of an Israeli minister, according to the information handed to the FBI; involvement that was perceived by the US investigative authorities as an attempt to obstruct their investigation.

According to Channel 10 reports this week, the relationship between Pinto and Brig-Gen Bracha was known to the FBI at the time, over the course of the last three years, and documentation supporting this has been handed over to Israeli authorities.

As this was happening, Weinstein was asked to make a decision regarding the indictment against Pinto himself. One of the possibilities was that Weinstein’s decision would affect new, sensitive information that was being uncovered in the affair, and was liable to be a serious embarrassment to parties in Israel’s law enforcement and government ranks.

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court is making a decision today regarding a partial waiver of the gag order on some of the details. Pinto himself is not expected to come to Israel despite claims made to that effect.

In November, 2012, the Israel Police announced that “The Special Investigations Team, under Head of Intelligence Unit Commander Yoav Segalovich approved the request made by Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto and his wife, who are suspected of bribing a senior police officer, to allow them to leave Israel for medical reasons, with significant guarantees and their commitment to report for the investigation is Israel whenever called upon to so do. 

The Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court approved the requests and authorized the decision.

Pinto is in ongoing contact with the investigative and legal authorities in Israel, through his lawyers Advs.Eli Zohar and Roy Belcher.

Zohar and Belcher declined to comment.

The Ministry of Justice stated: “To date, we have not publicized announcements regarding the Pinto affair, and we do not intend to address the affair in public at this stage. This stance neither confirms nor denies any announcement, even if it is completely ridiculous. Anyone who issues any statement at this stage does so solely on his own authority.”

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