Metzger steps down from chief rabbinical duties

( Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger has suspended himself from all roles connected to his position, his defense attorneys announced on Sunday.

Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel. Credit: PikiWiki Israel.

The announcement came after Metzger was questioned last Thursday and Friday and spent the weekend under house arrest in Tel Aviv following allegations that he took bribes worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, as well as engaged in corruption, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering. A months-long investigation by the elite Lahav 433 police investigations unit culminated in a raid on his house and office.

Police believe that Metzger pocketed hundreds of thousands of shekels that were meant as donations to non-profit charitable organizations. Metzger is suspected of laundering that money by buying properties in the names of his relatives. Police have seized those properties. In Israel, money laundering is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

"I am certain of my innocence," Metzger told his family over the weekend. "It's unpleasant but we'll get through this."

Posted on June 21, 2013 .