Leifer arrested to face extradition

Malka Leifer.

Nathan Jeffay

Police in Israel have rearrested Malka Leifer, after secretly keeping tabs on her for a month and then claiming that she been misleading legal authorities. 

She is suspected of “obstructing court proceedings under aggravated circumstances, in the fabrication of evidence and impersonation,” the Justice Ministry and Police revealed in a statement released to The AJN. 

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld discussed the case in detail with The AJN on Monday, shortly after the arrest. “Her claims that she couldn’t stand for trial was lies and she used that in front of the court to prevent herself being taken back to Melbourne,” he said. 

Rosenfeld added that contrasting her claims “police evidence showed a different picture altogether — that the psychological issues which prevented her from standing trail that she had claimed were incorrect and inaccurate.”

Both Rosenfeld and the statement followed Israeli protocol and declined to name Leifer, but it is clear from the details of the case that they were referring to her. She is due to appear in court on Tuesday. 

According to the statement from the authorities, they opened a “covert investigation” in to the alleged sex offender, after “indications accumulated that the suspect was pretending to suffer from mental illness in order to avoid the extradition process.” In 2014 Australia asked Israel to extradite Leifer, but to the outrage of alleged victims a court accepted her claim that she was mentally unfit to face proceedings. 

The authorities are not revealing exactly what evidence they have against Leifer. The Justice Ministry has already asked the court, on the basis of the new findings, to reopen extradition proceedings, and put the wheels in motion for her return to Victoria, where she is wanted on 74 charges of child sexual abuse.

“In the course of the investigation, a variety of complex and sophisticated actions were carried out that required the use of advanced technological means,” said the statement, which credited Interpol, the international policing association, spurring the investigation forwards.

The arrest is a glimmer of hope for her accusers who, just two weeks ago, were crestfallen that she was given a reprieve from proceedings for the third time. An Israeli judge had given her a reprieve from the court for another six months, ruling out extradition hearings until June.

Dassi Erlich, who was abused by Leifer, said the news is a mixture of elation and relief coupled with anticipation towards the future.

“We see this as a very important breakthrough in our long journey to achieve justice. It is shocking that charges of fraud and the feigning of mental illness have been used to evade justice for such a long time, but we are relieved that Malka Leifer’s arrest removes her from posing a potential threat to other vulnerable children,” she said on behalf of her and other victims.

“We have been heartened and grateful by the shared empathy by people across the full spectrum of society and for the practical support on many levels.

“It has been a very long ten years since Malka Leifer fled Australia.

“We are hopeful that this is a turning point in the extradition process.”