Ephraim Bracha, head of the Israel Police National Fraud Investigation Unit, committed suicide overnight Saturday, Haaretz has learned.
Bracha was a central figure in a corruption scandal involving Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto. Bracha testified that Pinto offered him bribes totaling hundreds of thousands of shekels in exchange for information about other investigations. Last April, Pinto admitted to bribing Bracha in a Tel Aviv district court, as part of a plea bargain.
A week ago, Channel 10 published that the Israel Police internal affairs unit was investigating claims that Bracha passed information along to suspects targeted by other investigations. The Channel 10 report included claims from Pinto attesting to Bracha’s conduct, and the internal affairs unit announced that a criminal investigation into Bracha could follow.
In November 2012, an argument erupted between Bracha and Pinto in an interrogation room at the fraud investigation unit’s headquarters over whether or not Bracha accepted bribes from Pinto. Transcriptions of the argument obtained by Haaretz reveal that Bracha explicitly threatened to end his life if the allegations were proved true. “I swear on the Torah that I gave you $60,00,” said Pinto. Bracha responded, “That’s a lie. You’re a liar, a cheat and a con man.”
Pinto reaffirmed his claims. “I swear you took the money. Swear on your children.” Bracha yelled in response, “We’re both going to do a polygraph, if I gave you even one shekel, one shekel, I’ll put my own head in the noose, commit suicide.”
“Go for it,” responded Bracha.
Pinto was indicted in September last year on charges that he gave about 400,000 shekels ($100,000) in bribes to Bracha, who now heads the national police fraud unit. The two have known each other since 2007.