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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Senior cop at center of Rabbi Pinto graft scandal could face criminal probe

Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv

The Justice Ministry’s police investigations unit has concluded that a criminal investigation should be opened into Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, head of the force’s main investigative command. The officer is suspected of receiving bribes from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto and associates while Arviv served as police attache to the Israeli embassy in Washington.

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan is expected to accept the recommendations of the investigative department in coming days and open an official criminal investigation against Arviv. Investigators from the Justice Ministry's internal affairs unit are expected to travel to the United Sates in the next few days to take testimony from Pinto on the affair.

Arviv commands Lahav 433, a unit popularly known as the "Israeli FBI," which includes the fraud squad, serious and international crimes unit, and the financial investigations unit.

The state prosecutor is not expected to reverse his decision to indict Pinto for his attempt to bribe another senior police officer, Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha – the commander of the national fraud squad – in 2012. Pinto is suspected of trying to bribe Bracha in return for information on the investigation being conducted against him. Pinto was also the target of a joint investigation by the authorities in the United States and Israel, into the suspected misuse of funds at Hazon Yeshaya, a nonprofit controlled by the rabbi and his wife.

Pinto’s lawyers, Eli Zohar and Roi Belcher, are expected to meet with Nitzan today in order to understand the prosecution’s position in Pinto’s case. The lawyers will try to reach a plea-bargain arrangement to prevent an indictment against Pinto in the Arviv bribery case.

It seems Pinto is offering the evidence against Arviv – and possibly other officers – in return for the promise of not being indicted in the Arviv case. Pinto’s disciples continue to claim adamantly that they have further evidence concerning other police officers who received various bribes from Pinto.

Arviv has taken a leave of absence while the affair is being investigated, but yesterday said he would return to his position in the coming week. Arviv continues to claim his innocence and that Pinto’s supporters have framed him in an attempt to rescue the rabbi from his own legal troubles.

However, an official involved in the investigation said that Arviv will have to provide answers to all the matters being presented against him.

While serving in his position in the United States, Arviv developed connections with many influential Israelis, including businessman Ben Zion Suky, who lives in Manhattan and is one of Pinto’s disciples.

Police suspect that, with Pinto’s knowledge, Suky and Arviv developed a relationship in which the businessman gave the officer and his family various benefits. This was not a one-time event, but something that, allegedly, occurred repeatedly over the course of several years.

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