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UTJ head Yaakov Litzman accused of attempting to prevent the extradition of teacher wanted over child molestation charges in Australia
Police in Israel have recommended indicting the country’s deputy health minister for bribery, fraud, witness tampering and breach of trust, with the politician accused of using his influence in the government to prevent the extradition of a child molester.
Yaakov Litzman, who is also chair of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party, is suspected of – among other accusations – standing in the way of former Jewish religious school headteacher Malka Leifer being sent to Australia.
Leifer is wanted on charges of 74 accounts of rape and sexual assault in Melbourne. However, despite being arrested in 2014, attempts to extradite her have been blocked and delayed for multiple reasons.
In a statement, the police said the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit and the National Fraud Investigation Unit said they had gathered enough evidence to put Litzman on trial over his involvement with Leifer, as well as for intervening to improve the conditions for a number of other imprisoned sex offenders.
Litzman was originally questioned by police in February over allegations that he had intervened in a medical assessment over whether Leifer was mentally fit to be deported.
Both Leifer and Litzman belong to the same ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious denomination.
Litzman’s office has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Since the scandal first erupted, the Jewish school that hired Leifer has been ordered to pay more than $1.1m in compensatory damages to the alleged victims.
Leifer fled to Israel in 2008 shortly after the allegations against her were first reported – prior to her arrest she lived in a settlement in the occupied West Bank. She is currently being held in Neve Tirza prison.
Jerusalem District Court is set to hand down a final decision on Leifer’s mental fitness for an extradition hearing on 23 September, according to the Times of Israel.
A report on Israel’s Channel 13 news in May reported that Litzman had helped at least 10 serious sex offenders improve their prison conditions – including securing home visits and other benefits- and applying pressure on state psychiatrists and prisons service officials.
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As Deutsche Bank officials this year scrambled to extricate themselves from a yearslong relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier charged this month with sex trafficking, they uncovered suspicious transactions in which Mr. Epstein had moved money out of the United States.
Deutsche Bank reported the transactions to a federal agency in charge of policing financial crimes, according to three people familiar with the bank’s internal processes. The report came as the bank started looking for signs that Mr. Epstein was using his financial resources for the purposes of sex trafficking.
Mr. Epstein, who has been accused of operating a sex-trafficking ring involving dozens of victims, some as young as 14, is being held in a Manhattan jail cell after federal prosecutors argued he was a flight risk, citing his vast financial resources. He has a byzantine network of businesses and personal holdings, which include real estate, an island and private planes valued at more than $500 million. Mr. Epstein’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Deutsche Bank has been contacted by prosecutors and other government authorities investigating Mr. Epstein. Joerg Eigendorf, a Deutsche Bank spokesman, said the bank was “absolutely committed to cooperating with all relevant authorities.”
Deutsche Bank executives are still trying to understand the depth and scope of the bank’s relationship with Mr. Epstein, who has been a client of its private-banking division since at least 2013 — years after his conduct became public in a prostitution case involving a teenage girl. Mr. Epstein struck a lenient plea deal that included a non-prosecution agreement from federal authorities, and the case has been held up as a glaring example of how the wealthy and well-connected can evade consequences.
At least one bank dropped Mr. Epstein as a client in the years after his guilty plea. But it wasn’t until late last year, after The Miami Herald published an investigation into the earlier sexual abuse allegations, that Deutsche Bank decided to sever ties with him. The process proved more complicated and time-consuming than executives had initially anticipated because Deutsche Bank’s private-banking division had opened several dozen accounts for Mr. Epstein and his businesses.
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A federal judge on Thursday denied bail for Jeffrey Epstein, the financier facing sex-trafficking charges, rejecting his request to await trial under home detention at his Upper East Side mansion.
The judge, Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said Mr. Epstein, who owns property in Paris and has a private plane, would be detained in jail until his trial on charges that he sexually abused and trafficked dozens of underage girls in the early 2000s.
Judge Berman emphasized Mr. Epstein’s danger to others, particularly his accusers and “prospective victims as well.” The judge cited what he called “compelling testimony” by two of the accusers — Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild — who said at a hearing on Monday that they feared for their safety and the safety of others if Mr. Epstein were to be released.
Mr. Epstein’s lawyers had proposed allowing him to post a substantial bond and remain in his mansion guarded around the clock by private security guards, whom he would pay. Prosecutors vigorously opposed that proposal, saying he was seeking “special treatment” and trying to build his own private jail — a “gilded cage.”
Judge Berman said that Mr. Epstein’s proposed bail package was “irretrievably inadequate,” and that he would not entertain any other bail proposals from the financier’s legal team.
“I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community,” the judge said.Jeffrey EpsteinCreditReuters
Prosecutors had also argued that Mr. Epstein’s fortune, said to be more than $500 million, would make it possible for him to flee the country if he were not detained.
The judge agreed, pointing to Mr. Epstein’s “great wealth and his vast resources,” including private planes and a residence in Paris.
Ever since his July 6 arrest at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey after a flight from Paris, Mr. Epstein, 66, has been detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a highly secure jail in Manhattan that has housed accused terrorists, mobsters and even the Mexican cartel leader known as El Chapo.
A federal indictment charged that between 2002 and 2005, Mr. Epstein and his employees paid dozens of underage girls to engage in sex acts with him at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla.
The indictment also accused Mr. Epstein of using some of his victims to recruit additional girls for him to abuse. He paid his “victim-recruiters” hundreds of dollars for each girl they brought to him, prosecutors said.
He has pleaded not guilty and has vowed to fight the charges, his lawyers said. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison.
In 2008, Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges in Florida as part of a secret, lenient deal he negotiated with the United States attorney in Miami to avoid federal prosecution. He served 13 months in jail.Jeffrey Epstein Was a Sex Offender. The Powerful Welcomed Him Anyway.
In seeking Mr. Epstein’s detention, prosecutors also sharply disputed his lawyers’ argument that for more than a decade he had lived a law-abiding life. They noted, for example, that he had tried to influence possible witnesses against him as recently as last year.
The prosecutors said Mr. Epstein had wired $350,000 to two people close to him who were potential witnesses just days after The Miami Herald revealed details last November about his deal to avoid federal prosecution in Florida.
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