For Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto the past years have been difficult ones as he is being investigated by Israel Police and the FBI. The rav, who was acted as advisor for some of Israel’s leading security commanders and state officials became a suspect in a number of investigations addressing suspicions of tax evasion, money laundering, bribery and related white collar crimes.
Maariv correspondent Shalom Yerushalmi writes the rav has endured much anguish during recent years as a result, adding Rabi Pinto is quoted telling talmidim he did not give bribes to anyone. “I never gave anyone a bribe” the rav is quoted saying, adding “This is a very serious aveira in the Torah. Even if you give a bribe under circumstances that appears justified it is a Biblical prohibition. It is the same as eating pork”.
The rav adds “If I have bribed anyone I am willing to remove my fedora and from now on, I am not a rav.”
The case began in October 2012 with the arrest of the rav and his rebitzen, Rivkah Devorah. They were accused of bribing Police Brigadier-General Ephraim Bracha, and the latter turned to his superiors, wore a wire and gathered evidence against Rabbi Pinto. Bracha explained Rabbi Pinto was seeking information on the investigation against his Chazon Yeshaya organization. Pinto demanded that the investigation be taken from the hands of police and given to another agency, for he maintained he cannot be judged fairly due to the involvement of Bracha, a senior officer. Pinto maintained the FBI knew in advance of the suitcase with money given to Bracha, and that led to uncovering corruption among other Israel Police commanders. After the Jerusalem Magistrate Court on Tu B’Shevat 5774 lifted the gag order on the case, it has been learned that the commander of the elite Yahalom 433 Unit Menashe Arbiv is among the senior commanders who was bribed. Arbiv has taken a leave pending the outcome of the growing investigation.
Israel Police cooperated with the FBI as the case against the rav widened. Pinto faces obstruction of justice charges from the FBI. The FBI investigated Rabbi Pinto the victim of extortion. Yerushalmi revealed that Pinto informed American authorities of a meeting in the beginning of 2012 with Justice Minister Prof. Yaakov Ne’eman, who guided him in dealing with one of the main players in the extortion case, a member of Congress, Michael Grimm (R-NY), who was also a former FBI agent. Grimm was under FBI investigation for illegal campaign donations, some allegedly stemming from Pinto and his people. The rabbi made a deal with the FBI, and his phone was tapped.
The FBI is reportedly angry with Israel Police, accusing it of compromising its investigation against Grimm by exposing Pinto as was done. A former cabinet minister was involved too according to reports, and that former minister instructed Pinto to back off his testimony against Grimm. This may lead to an additional story and point to more corruption in Israel.
One follower of the rav, Sharon Ovadia, told Walla News that he and others are pleased the gag order was lifted and the truth will finally be told. He laments the pain caused the rav and how his name has been linked to illegal activities, and he and those who know Rabbi Pinto know the truth will not become evident to all. Ovadia adds that one just has to see the caliber of people who regularly seek his guidance and it is clear to all that Rabbi Pinto is genuine and those who wish to see his downfall have framed him.
Aides to Rabbi Pinto explain they are confident the FBI probe will reveal the truth, the high-level corruption in Israel, including Israel Police and the rav will ultimately be found innocent of charges against him.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)