According to a Yediot Achronot report, former Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger became a wealthy man by taking advantage of his post as Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi for a decade. The rav was recently released to house arrest after being arrested on a number of charges, including fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.
The state has a key witness in the case, a former driver and close confidant of the rabbi, who recorded him incriminating himself.
Yediot reports a number of examples, including the fact the former chief rabbi was paid 300,000 NIS for attending the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto in the capacity of chief rabbi. Yediot reports the rabbi took in $3 million, over 10 million NIS as he would routinely charge for attending events as chief rabbi despite the fact the appearances were included in his job description.
The rav was allegedly a major fundraiser for many tzedaka organizations and while he was flown abroad on the state’s tab, including lodging and other needs, he took as much as 50% of all donations as his cut.
Police are now reporting that the situation was not limited to taking money as commission, but the rabbi accepted sizable sums to advance people’s interests with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, including matters connected to giyur, kashrus, appointments and marriage registry – accommodating personal requests for assistance accompanied by payment.
According to the state witness, the rabbi’s former confidant, the former rabbi offered him $1 million to plead guilty to the charges in his place. The witness, whose name is the subject of a gag order, refused. It was then the rabbi pointed the finger of blame at him, which the witness explains is what compelled him to cooperate with the prosecution.
Police have learned the rabbi laundered the money by buying two apartments and listing them in the names of his children. These apartments have been located and police report they were purchased with illegal funds. Yediot reports there appear to be other apartments as well.
Police are signaling a most serious multi-count indictment will be handed down against Rabbi Metzger in the near future.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)