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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto probe sparks tensions between FBI and Israel Police


The Israel Police has refused to share information from the Rabbi Pinto investigation with the FBI, souring relations between the two organizations, the New York Daily News reported on Saturday.

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, one of Israel's best-connected rabbis, is suspected of bribing senior police officers in order to get information about ongoing investigations against him. No charges have been laid as yet.

The FBI has reportedly provided Israel Police with evidence against Pinto, based on wire taps of his phone in the United States. His phone was tapped in connection with a separate FBI investigation into the campaign finances of Michael Grimm, a congressman from Staten Island, New York.

Grimm is suspected of campaign financing violations, including encouraging illegal donations from U.S. followers of Pinto.

Now, the Daily News reports, Israeli is refusing to return the favor by sharing material that the FBI wants for its Grimm probe.

The FBI has been investigating Grimm since 2010, when he was elected to Congress. During the election campaign, Grimm received support from Ofer Biton, who at the time was one of Pinto's top aides. Biton was later accused of having embezzled millions of dollars from Pinto’s congregation.

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

Biton pleaded guilty to visa fraud in August 2013.

Grimm has rejected the allegations regarding his campaign funding as false and 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.

Grimm is known as a staunch supporter of Israel and reportedly has connections to senior Israeli politicians. He is a vocal opponent of U.S. President Barack Obama.

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