The head of the Israel Bar Association, Effi Naveh, is suspected of receiving sexual bribes in return for judicial appointments.
Naveh is considered the main suspect in a case that shocked Israel's justice system. He is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as obstruction of justice.
Another suspect is a female judge, who allegedly bribed Naveh for her appointment to the magistrate's court, and a female lawyer who allegedly bribed Naveh for an appointment for her husband, who is a judge himself.
The three were questioned by the police's National Fraud Investigations Unit on Wednesday.
Naveh is suspected of promoting the appointment of a female police prosecutor as a magistrate's court judge several years ago in return for sexual favors, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to appoint a male magistrate's court judge, whose wife is a lawyer and a member of the Bar Association with vast connections in the ruling Likud Party, to the district court, also in return for sexual favors.
As the head of the Bar Association, Naveh is a member of the Judicial Selection Committee. He "took advantage of his high status and his ability to influence the process of the appointment of judges, while in a conflict of interest," a police representative said in court.
During his remand hearing, Naveh's lawyer Boaz Ben-Zur argued that Naveh was not a member of the Judicial Selection Committee when the female judge was appointed to the magistrate's court in June 2016, and that the decision to appoint her was made with a majority of eight votes. The police representative responded that while Naveh was not a member of the committee at the time, "he was there in spirit."
The police investigation was launched after Army Radio journalist Hadas Shteif provided police with information concerning the case. Later, police investigators obtained numerous text messages that that aroused suspicions against Naveh of sexual bribery, among other offenses. In subsequent raids, police confiscated cellphones and digital files. Among other things, police have incriminating correspondences between Naveh and the two women.
Naveh's lawyer Ben-Zur said the information provided to the police by the Army Radio journalist was "obtained in way of a criminal offense by hacking into Naveh's cellphone."
While the investigation is currently focusing on the two aforementioned appointments, the police representative said investigators intend to look into additional appointments both before and during Naveh's time as a member of the committee. In addition to the judge and lawyer who have already been questioned, investigators suspect Naveh committed offenses in connection with another female attorney and two interns.
The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court decided Wednesday evening to release Naveh from police custody and put him on house arrest for nine days, as well as bar him from arriving at the Bar Association offices for a month. The judge and lawyer were also put on house arrest for five days each.
Senior judicial officials estimated police will collect testimony from members of the Judicial Selection Committee, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. So far, three members of the committee gave their testimony, including Likud MK Nurit Koren, who represents the coalition, and Ilana Saker, who is a representative of the Bar Association.
Former members of the committee, who served while the judge's appointment was approved, will likely also be required to give testimony, including former Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor and her deputy Elyakim Rubinstein.