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Israeli police arrest well-known rabbi in Jerusalem on numerous charges

February 10, 2020 at 9:37 am

Rabbi Eliezer Berland (L) was arrested on charges of involvement in magic, sex offences, money laundering, misuse of charity funds and tax evasion [Wikicommons]

Israeli police arrested Rabbi Eliezer Berland in Jerusalem on Sunday on charges of involvement in magic, sex offences, money laundering, misuse of charity funds and tax evasion, Israeli media reported.

Along with his wife and a number of the senior members of his ultra-orthodox sect, Berland, 82, was arrested amidst protests by his followers.

According to the Times of Israel, Berland was taken into custody during investigations into claims that he extorted funds out of his followers by promising to heal them.

More than 200 people provided evidence to the police as part of the investigations. They said that they paid huge amounts of money for promises that he would heal them from cancer or get their sons released from prison.

“He allegedly told a cancer patient not to accept medical treatment and instead pay him money so that she would live,” reported the newspaper. “After she died, her mother filed a police complaint against him, accusing him of manslaughter.”

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Another family said in its complaint that it paid Berland tens of thousands of shekels multiple times for blessings and amulets to save a sick loved one. “When the person died, Berland’s associates asked for another payment to ensure that their loved one was first in line at the Messianic resurrection.”

The police seized a number of boxes and powder and, after laboratory tests, revealed that the rabbi gave his “patients” simple painkillers and sweets, including commercially-produced Mentos.

The Times of Israel said that the police did not name Berland or any of the others who have been arrested, but simply confirmed the detention of six suspects accused of running a ring that “took cynical and terrible advantage of hundreds of citizens and their families, who faced their most difficult times, and demanded tens of thousands of shekels from them for prayers and healing.”

In their statement, the police also said they uncovered evidence of “money laundering, hidden assets and tax offences worth hundreds of millions of shekels, which the suspects are suspected of laundering through dozens of bank accounts.”

Berland was released from prison a year ago after pressure from his followers. He was being held at the time after allegedly raping a woman who came to him to facilitate her reunion with her husband.

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