Middle East

Police probe Israel ex-chief rabbi over graft

File - August 21, 2012 in Berlin, Germany shows former Israeli Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger speaking during the federal press conference.(AFP PHOTO / KAY NIETFELD)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s fraud squad was questioning former chief Ashkenazi rabbi Yona Metzger Monday on charges of taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust, obstructing justice and witness tampering, police said.

Metzger, who stepped down from the role after 10 years on July 24, had been arrested and questioned on similar charges in June. He was eventually released without charges being pressed.

A police statement Monday said the national fraud unit put the sums related to the suspected felonies at millions of shekels.

Metzger’s first questioning at the national fraud unit headquarters in Lod, south of Tel Aviv, came after months of covert investigations.

A police spokesman told AFP he would be brought to the Rishon Letzion magistrate’s court in central Israel for a remand hearing later in the day.

Israel has two chief rabbis, the Ashkenazi and Sephardi, whose responsibilities include the country’s rabbinic courts and regulating the food supervision industry.

Metzger was voted into the prestigious position in 2003 thanks to the support of the senior ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authority at the time.

In 2005, he was questioned on suspicion of receiving benefits from a hotel in Jerusalem in return for favors, and police recommended he be tried for fraud and breach of trust.

But the attorney general at the time, fearing an unsuccessful prosecution, decided against an indictment in 2006.

Instead he wrote a scathing report about the rabbi, accusing Metzger of lying to police and recommending that he resign immediately.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 19, 2013, on page 9.




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