Israel - Jerusalem Rabbinical Court Rocked By Allegations Of Bribery
A father, who was desperate to keep custody of his children, said he was approached by Rabbi Mizrachi during his divorce proceeding and was told money could help sway the court’s decision.
In late 2014, the unnamed father, now a state’s witness, went to police after recording his conversations with Sebag wherein he said he would intervene with the presiding judge, Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel, in exchange for a bribe. Sebag can be heard in the recordings discussing the amounts of money he wanted.
The father recounted his initial conversation with Mizrachi, which took place in the court’s hallway. “I was sitting in the court’s hallway,” the father said, “and all of a sudden Rabbi Saar Mizrachi walks up to me. I knew him from before. He saw I was in despair and asked how he could help.”
“I told him about the difficulties I was experiencing with the court and how my children were in danger. I told him I felt the court was biased against me and won’t allow me or my rabbinical advocate to even make our claims properly. He went in to talk to the judges panel’s secretary, Yaakov Sebag, and after a while he came back and led me to understand that money would help, and that if I wanted things to start being in my favor, I had no choice but to bribe. Without much of a choice, I gave him a thousand shekels in cash on the spot. I went home devastated. I committed grave acts to get the most basic justice.”
The father continued, “After I gave him a bribe for the first time, a game of ping-pong started,” he says. “I put the money, a decision in my favor is made, suddenly something changes and Rabbi Saar is asking for more money. It continued this way for a time. In total, I gave him close to ten thousand shekels. At this point I didn’t know where the money was going and I didn’t care very much. I was in the midst of a fight for my children. The fight over the property did not bother me as much as the fight for custody over the children.”
Last week, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended the remand of Sebag saying it concurred with police that “a reasonable suspicion arises that Sebag received bribes in order to change [rabbinical] court decisions.” Sebag’s attorney, Elimelech Kurzweil, refuted that statement, saying, “There is no basis for the claim that there was even an attempt to influence court proceedings, and in any case, we completely deny the matter.”
According to Mizrachi attorney Shai Weiselberg, his client “was questioned by police and cooperated fully. He claims that he did not pocket any money. Even according to the police, his role in this affair was minor, and therefore the court decided to release him under house arrest.”
The Anti-Fraud Unit of the Jerusalem Police is now investigating the case. No judges have been charged in connection with the case.
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