Israeli “idol” judge indicted in strongarm case

Israel’s “Kochav Nolad” (“A Star is Born”) TV singing competition has a new reality spinoff—a criminal case against one of its judges, accused of using strongarm tactics to ensure she got a cut of a former contestant’s earnings.

The judge, Margalit Tsanani, a popular singer in her own right, was indicted on Monday along with her alleged enforcer on extortion charges which both have denied.

The case has made front-page news in Israel, where the show, loosely formatted along the lines of the unaffiliated American Idol franchise, has been a ratings winner.

According to the charge sheet, Tsanani, popularly known as “Margol”, co-managed along with a musical agent the lucrative career of one of the competition’s former contestants.

But the agent withheld Tsanani’s cut and she went to legal arbitration, which she won. The agent still refused to pay and Tsanani turned to an enforcer—nicknamed “Tooth Puller”—to collect, the indictment said.

Tsanani’s arrest two weeks ago stunned the Israeli entertainment world, but parts of the indictment dealing directly with the singing competition could prove even more disturbing to fans.

Prosecutors alleged the judge awarded points to one contestant—who did not win—in accordance with a text message she received from the enforcer during a live broadcast of the show.

And, the indictment said, Tsanani also did her enforcer a favour by making a friendly reference, during the show, to a convict watching the programme in prison.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, editing by Tim Pearce