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Rabbi bribe scandal hits top Israel anti-graft cop

Lawyers for U.S.-based Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto alleged police corruption in IsraelA top police officer in Israel at the center of bribery allegations involving a prominent rabbi quit the police force Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, a 36-year police veteran, blamed unfair treatment by authorities and the media.

He said at a Tel Aviv news conference the pressure on his family was too much. 

Arviv had taken a leave of absence three weeks ago as director of the national crime and corruption investigation unit known as Lahav 433 because of graft allegations against him, the Times of Israel reported.

"He was alleged to have taken bribes from New York-based Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto during his time as police attaché at the Israeli embassy in Washington," Haaretz said.

Pinto's lawyers made the allegations in submissions to the police in Israel and the attorney general.

“I can no longer tolerate the conduct of the legal system that is rolling me and my family in feathers and tar,” Arviv said. “I have decided to end the witch hunt and therefore I have decided to leave the Israel Police.”

Arviv said he repeatedly asked to give his version of payments he allegedly received from Rabbi Pinto.

“I have been sitting at home for about a month and no one has contacted me," he said. "No one has asked for my version.”

Rabbi Pinto 39, heads several prominent charities and Torah study institutions in Israel and the United States.

Among his followers are Jay Schottenstein, chairman of the American Eagle Outfitters clothing company, and Israeli real estate mogul Jacky Ben-Zaken, the Times of Israel said.

Payments to Israeli police officers could violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The law makes it illegal to give or promise to give anything of value to a foreign official to obtain or retain business.

Anti-bribery offenses under the FCPA are punishable by up to five years in prison.

Rabbi Pinto is suspected of embezzling money from one of the organization he oversaw, the Times of Israel said.

The U.S. Justice Department hasn't reported an investigation of Rabbi Pinto for FCPA-related violations.

Rabbi Pinto was arrested in 2012 in Israel after his wife was caught allegedly handing a briefcase containing $57,400 in cash to Deputy Inspector General Ephraim Bracha of the Israeli police.

"Some reports said that Bracha accepted the briefcase as part of a sting operation, and there was no indication that he was under investigation for receiving it from Pinto’s wife," the Times of Israel said.


Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.