Jerusalem Rabbinical Court officials accused of taking bribes in custody case

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Jerusalem Rabbinical Court officials are under investigation for allegedly asking for and receiving bribes from a father in a custody case.

The officials, Rabbi Saar Mizrachi and Yaakov Sebag, are suspected of brokering bribes, fraudulently obtaining benefits and obstruction of justice, Ynet reported. The Hebrew-language daily Yediot Acharonot, which runs Ynet, was the first to report the story on Saturday.

The police investigation was launched out of the Yediot investigative report.

The father in the case, identified as A., turned state witness and has assisted police in the investigation.

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A judge in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Thursday said in a decision to keep Sebag in custody that “a reasonable suspicion arises that Sebag received bribes in order to change court decisions” on divorce, custody, visitation rights, state of exit orders and legal guarantees, Ynet reported

A. received a first request for a cash bribe to make things go his way in the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court at the end of 2014, after which he was asked several more times for envelopes of cash. A. said that he shelled out about 10 thousand shekels, nearly $4,000, in order to get favorable rulings in the custody battle for his children and for division of property, Ynet reported.

After contacting Yediot, A. taped some of the conversations he had with Sebag.

Ynet quoted unnamed police sources as saying that the bribery occurred only on the clerical level and there is no evidence to suggest that the judges were aware of the bribes.

“We are confident that law enforcement authorities will do their work faithfully and we will cooperate if required to do so,” the rabbinical court said in a statement, according to Ynet.

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