Former Melbourne principal Malka Leifer has returned to Victoria to face charges of child sexual abuse, nearly 13 years after leaving the country and six years after an extradition request was first lodged.
- Ms Leifer faces 74 charges of child sexual abuse
- She was escorted back to Victoria by police after an extradition order was signed in December
- Attorney-General Christian Porter says the news will bring relief for her accusers
Ms Leifer left Israel on Monday and landed at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport this evening, escorted by Victoria Police officers.
She is accused of abusing three sisters during her time as headmistress of Elsternwick’s Adass Israel School between 2001 and 2008.
Attorney-General Christian Porter confirmed Ms Leifer would face 74 counts of child sexual abuse.
“These are extremely serious charges and now that Ms Leifer has been extradited to Australia, those charges can now be tested by the courts in Victoria,” he said.
“Ms Leifer’s return to Australia marks the end of a very long and complicated extradition. I thank the Israeli Government for its cooperation and assistance during the course of this process.”
Ms Leifer has maintained her innocence during the drawn-out legal process.
Ms Leifer will face the Bail and Remand Court on Thursday, Courts Victoria said, for what is expected to be a filing hearing.
She will appear via videolink from Victoria Police custody.
“The arrival of Ms Leifer in Australia will bring relief to alleged victims who have waited many years for this moment,” Mr Porter said.
“It is now important that the legal processes are allowed to proceed in Victoria without commentary which could affect that process.”
Ms Leifer left Australia for Israel in 2008 and Victoria Police submitted a request for her extradition in 2014.
The country’s Supreme Court rejected her final appeal against the extradition in December.
Ms Leifer left Israel on one of the last flights out of the country before a coronavirus shutdown came into effect.
Her alleged victims, sisters Nicole Meyer, Elly Sapper and Dassi Erlich, were involved in the #BringLeiferBack campaign as the extradition process went through the Israeli courts.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she commended the courage of those involved in the campaign to have the charges heard in Australia.
“They have shown enormous patience and resolve and my thoughts are with them as we reach a critical step in this legal process,” Senator Payne said.
“I also thank all those within the Israeli Government whose cooperation has allowed us to reach this point.”
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) welcomed the news that after “protracted delays” Ms Leifer had arrived in the country.
The council’s executive director, Judy Fetter, said she “applauds the strength, determination and resilience of Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper and clarifies that the JCCV stands firmly together with all victims of abuse in our community and across Victoria”.
The council urged people who were affected by the news to seek counselling.