The Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger, was released to house arrest on Thursday evening, after being questioned by the anti-fraud unit of the Israel Police. He was questioned “under warning,” meaning that criminal charges are being considered.
Rabbi Metzger, who was questioned by officers for ten hours, will be under house arrest for a period of five days. He is forbidden to leave the country or make contact with the three other suspects in the case.
He is accused, according to a police source, of “fraud, theft by a public official, breach of faith, accepting bribes, and money laundering.”
Earlier on Thursday evening, the Rishon Letzion Magistrates Court extended the remand of the three other suspects.
The remand of the rabbi's driver, 38-year-old Chaim Eisenstein, was extended by eight days. He is suspected of taking a bribe and an aggravated case of receiving something illegally. The remand of Simcha Karkovsky was extended six days, and the third suspect will be held another seven days.
Rabbi Metzger’s attorneys said that their client denies all the corruption charges against him.
The attorneys, Professor David Libai and Elad Rath, said Rabbi Metzger answered all the questions put to him during the hours of interrogation.
As part of the investigation, police searched Rabbi Metzger's office and home, as well as the homes and offices of the other suspects. Police said that during the searches, documents and computers were seized and liens were placed on bank accounts and real estate properties.
Several years ago, Rabbi Metzger was questioned for receiving “unauthorized benefits,” accused of receiving free stays in hotels. Police dropped the charges when Rabbi Metzger's office produced proof that he had indeed paid for the trips, but not before headlines about his “corruption” were spread in the media.
Meanwhile, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel demanded that Rabbi Metzger suspend himself immediately. The OMETZ anti-corruption movement called on Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett to immediately suspend Rabbi Metzger because of the investigation against him.