Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer arrested in Israel after fleeing Australia amid sex abuse claims

Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer arrested in Israel after fleeing Australia amid sex abuse claims

A SCHOOLTEACHER wanted in Australia on 74 allegations of rape and sexual abuse against children has been sensationally arrested in Israel.

Malka Leifer is finally facing extradition proceedings, almost 10 years after she fled Australia after being accused of abusing female students at the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick in Melbourne. She was principal of the ultraconservative Jewish school at the time.

Since fleeing in 2008 she has managed to avoid extradition by arguing she was too mentally unwell to face court in Australia.

However, Israeli authorities today swooped on Ms Leifer, who is aged in her 50s, after a month-long undercover investigation by police, which concluded that Ms Leifer was allegedly faking her mental illness.

Israeli police have issued a statement saying a woman in her 50s from the district of Samaria had been arrested on suspicions of “obstructing court proceedings and attempting to hide evidence of a case’’.

“A police undercover investigation has been underway for a month, following an Interpol request to investigate the suspect, who is wanted in Australia for sexual offences to sisters (minors) while being a teacher and principal at the school where they studied,’’ the police statement said.

“During the investigation evidence was gathered against the suspect.’’

Police said the Israeli Department of International Affairs of the State Attorney’s Office had on August 17, 2014, filed a request with the Jerusalem District Court requesting that the suspect be extradited to Australia.

However, the court in June 2016 stopped the extradition proceedings after determining, “in accordance with the district psychiatrist that the suspect was not fit to stand trial’’.

“Over the next six months a psychiatric committee continued to carry out assessments,’’ police said.

“Later the committee convened three times that the suspect was still unfit to stand trial.’’

Police then alleged: “During 2017 there were indications that the suspect was pretending to be suffering from a mental illness in order to avoid the extradition process, and as a result, police opened again an investigation that led to her arrest this morning’’

Ms Leifer is due to attend the Petah Tivka Magistrates Court outside Tel Aviv where police will seek to extend her detention.

“The Department for International Affairs will look into the process of having the suspect extradited to Australia,’’ police said.

Ms Leifer’s continued evasion of the allegations has infuriated alleged victims and Australian officials, who believed members of the ultraconservative Jewish community were protecting her.

The breakthrough by police will be welcomed in Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has raised the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and prominent Victorian Labor Jewish MPs Mark Dreyfus and Michael Danby also lobbied Israel about it.