The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yonah Metzger for NIS 10 million in bribes, ushering in a new stage in the latest legal drama of a major public figure to grab the country’s attention.
The indictment, filed with the Jerusalem District Court, was filed after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein rejected arguments by Metzger’s lawyer against the charges at a special pre-indictment hearing.
Weinstein emphasized that his decision was in keeping with the recommendation of State Attorney Shai Nitzan and other prosecution officials on the case.
Previously, Metzger’s defense team said in response to the attorney-general’s prior announcements that he would likely indict Metzger that “we received from the attorney-general the allegations against Rabbi Yonah Metzger and the summons to a hearing. Rabbi Metzger denies the allegations made against him. According to the rabbi, he did not receive bribes, not through the state’s witness and not through anyone else, and did not launder money.
“We will address the allegations against the rabbi at the hearing he has been summoned to after we receive and review the investigative material,” it added.
Besides bribery, the charges also include fraud, breach of public trust, fraudulent receipt of a benefit under aggravated circumstances, theft, money-laundering, tax violations and conspiracy to commit a felony, all while using his position as chief rabbi.
The indictment said that of the NIS 10 million, NIS 7 million had gone directly to Metzger.
According to the indictment, in most of the suspected criminal actions, Chaim Eisenstadt, Metzger’s driver, acted as his representative for his receiving bribes.
Due to Metzger and Eisenstadt’s closeness and his involvement in Metzger’s alleged scheme, Eisenstadt would be accused of having received double digits of the overall percentage of the bribes.
In the “Conversion Affair,” Metzger allegedly received large bribery funds from foreigners who wished to convert or to clarify whether they were Jewish under standards acceptable to the Chief Rabbinate.
Metzger and a rabbi from a foreign country split funds paid to the foreign rabbi regarding the issues in question, according to the indictment.
It added that sometimes Metzger received the funds, but made sure that at least in initial stages that checks were not made payable to him, so that he could better hide his involvement.
In 2011, the indictment said, Metzger and the foreign rabbi helped convert the children of a Russian businessman who had made aliya, at a price of $360,000, of which Metzger received $180,000.
Next, the indictment said that Metzger received double digits of percentages of donations slated for charitable organizations in exchange for his support and activities on behalf of those organizations.
One donation for $28,000 that was slated for a yeshiva in Metzger’s synagogue found its way to Metzger and Eisenstadt instead, said the indictment.
Another donation, of $72,000 earmarked for the organization “Beit Hatavshil,” which helps provide food for the poor, was split between the charity and Metzger, who received around $22,500 of the donation, without the donor’s knowledge, according to the indictment.
Another specific allegation involved Metzger receiving bribes under the guise of gifts, such as gifts for his son’s 2010 wedding.
In one case, Metzger allegedly received $500,000 in bribes under the guise of gifts in 10 separate payments.
At another ceremony, for nominating a rabbi to receive an official position, one of that rabbi’s relatives gave Metzger $70,000, said the indictment.
Metzger is also accused of not reporting all income he received to tax authorities.
The indictment also said that Metzger had instructed Eisenstadt to lie to police when questioned in order to protect Metzger.
Metzger voluntarily suspended himself from a number of major duties in June 2013 amid the investigation while he was still in office.
He maintained his innocence but stepped down from serving on the Rabbinical High Court, the Chief Rabbinical Council and the Appointments Committee for Rabbinical Judges.