It was cleared for publication Thursday that Israel Police is conducting an investigation of senior police officers on suspicion of accepting bribe from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto
In Wednesday's issue of newsletter the rabbi releases periodically to his supporters, he wrote: "I will reveal my emotions before you. Dear brothers, this dark time forced upon us haunts us without us having committed any crime, and only due to narrow-minded and cruel considerations of those who use scare tactics."
The only senior police officer whose name is mentioned in a statement issued by the Justice Ministry regarding the investigation is officer Menashe Arviv.
The department of internal affairs with the Israel Police stated that "recently, a probe was launched regarding officer Menashe Arviv, following information handed several weeks ago to the attorney general and the state prosecutor, attributing felonies of bribe, from sources affiliated with Rabbi Pinto, to the officer. At this stage, Arviv has yet to be questioned."
Arviv said after his meeting with the police commissioner that "this is a false accusation and damage to my reputation, and I believe that the investigation will be carried out quickly and effectively, and that at its conclusion my good name will be restored."
Following the publication, officer Arviv decided to suspend himself until conclusion of legal proceedings.
The police chief said: "It would be wise to let the authorities maximize their abilities prior to sentencing a man. As we have proven in the past, the police do not compromise values and principles, but we must keep in mind this is an early stage of the investigation and the police officer is entitled for the presumption of innocence."
Allegations of bribe
It has been reported that a suitcase carrying hundreds of thousands of shekels was handed by Pinto's wife to the wife of officer Ephraim Bracha for information regarding an investigation against an association with which Pinto was involved.
Bracha, then head of investigations and currently the head of the national unit for fraud investigation, informed his superiors, of the handing over of the suitcase, noting it was bribe. The rabbi, however, insisted that he was supporting Bracha, who was in need of help.
Bracha's complaint prompted police to summon Pinto and draft an indictment, but proceedings were discontinued as a result of new information.
Some of the new information suggested that Arviv received bribe from Pinto when the former was working in the US. Arviv denied the allegations and insisted that none of the allegations attributed to him had happened, and that it was "gossip of narrow-minded people."
Despite all this, the Justice Ministry stressed that "In investigating Rabbi Pinto, there was no basis for suspicion of criminal misconduct by officer Ephraim Bracha, and that remains to be true."
As part of a settlement with the FBI, a blackmail complaint filed by Pinto forced the rabbi to testify against Michael Grimm, a New York Republican Congressman and a former FBI agent.
Grimm was under FBI investigation for illegal donations to his 2010 campaign. Some of the donations were reportedly by sources affiliated with Rabbi Pinto.
Pinto's agreement with the FBI required that the rabbi's phone be wiretapped and that he would divulge any information regarding financial transaction associated with the Hazon Yishaya organization.
According to Pinto, as part of the surveillance, the FBI was informed of the suitcase with money that was given to Bracha.
The tracing of Pinto's footsteps apparently yielded information regarding other senior police officials who also visited the rabbi and were given benefits.
One of the FBI's recordings, according to Pinto's men, is leading to a religious figure, closely affiliated to several police officials, who turned to Pinto himself and offered to "dissolve" the investigation against him in exchange for money.
In the last 24 hours, an FBI representative landed in Israel together with recordings, documents, e-mail copies, and other materials that allegedly confirm the claims of Rabbi Pinto in regards to his link to the senior police officers.
However, the FBI is furious with the Israeli police, it seems, insisting that there are officers who compromised the investigation against US Congressman Grimm, by tarnishing Pinto. This is where a senior former minister gets involved in the ordeal, who according to Pinto was one of those who spoke with him and asked him to "lay off" his testimony against Grimm. It is unclear to what extent the investigators will focus on this claim.
'Can of worms'
Rabbi Pinto, one of Israel’s most influential rabbis, is a spiritual guide to many politicians and tycoons and the chair of many education and welfare organizations.
The entire sequence of events was under a sweeping gag order in recent weeks, and it was lifted Thursday morning upon the request of Ynet and other media outlets. Ynet was represented in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court by attorney Tali Leiblich and Liat Bergman.
The involvement of a former Israeli minister is also suspected and is to be probed. Sources familiar with Pinto's businesses have stated in the past that: "If this can of worms is opened, many Israeli officials will be embarrassed by the findings."
On Wednesday, it was revealed that the affair is to be deliberated in the Knesset, by a subcommittee that supervises Israeli police. Senior police officers are expected to be summoned, and according to reports, Police Chief Yohanan Danino may also be summoned.
Police issued a statement on Wednesday, urging media to avoid from insinuating any criminal misconduct in relation to police officials, stressing that "vague publications maneuvering the limitation of gag orders produce unrealistic generalizations.
"The Israeli police consist of some 30,000 policemen, women and officers who are devoted, determined and loyal in serving the public.
"Israel Police would like to clarify to the public that no specific incident, as we have proven in the past, can tarnish an entire organization… It would be best if authorities could issue statements when the time comes, and avoid unnecessary rumor spreading."