Benjamin Netanyahu: Israeli police move closer to indicting prime minister in criminal investigation

Likely indictment leaves country wondering what happens next for embattled prime minister and his coalition government

Thursday 07 September 2017 16:13
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Mr Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, agreed to turn state's witness last month in what has widely been viewed as a turning point in the investigations against the prime minister
Mr Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, agreed to turn state's witness last month in what has widely been viewed as a turning point in the investigations against the prime minister

It is growing increasingly likely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be indicted over charges related to bribery, fraud and breach of trust, local media has said.

One daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, declared on its front page on Thursday that police have “more than enough evidence” to charge the prime minister, and his indictment is imminent.

Columnists and pundits can talk of little else after it emerged that investigators have again questioned at length Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, from whom it is alleged the prime minister received lavish and “inappropriate” gifts such as cigars, jewellery and champagne.

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Mr Milchan was interrogated by the elite Lahav 433 police unit in London on Wednesday.

The scandal is one of several plaguing the prime minister.

He also stands accused of allegedly offering a newspaper owner commercial favours in return for positive coverage, been asked to testify in the corruption case against his personal lawyer, David Shimron, over defence contract deals with German shipmaker ThyssenKrupp to buy submarines, and has been accused of failing to disclose his ties to key actors in a merger deal involving state telecommunications company Bezeq.

Mr Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, agreed to testify against his former employer last month, despite the fact he is a long time friend and loyal supporter of both Mr Netanyahu and his Likud party.

Mr Harow’s decision has widely has widely been seen as a turning point in the investigations against the prime minister.

It is believed that police may also try to persuade Mr Milchan - an Israeli citizen - to also turn state’s witness.

Mr Netanyahu’s wife Sara is also facing legal woes: after two years of investigations, it is expected that the Attorney General, Avichai Mandelbilt, will accept the police’s recommendation that she be formally accused in a graft investigation.

Ms Netanyahu has been variously accused of allegedly using money set aside for the Prime Minister’s official residence for furniture and improvements to the pair’s private home, hiring Likud Party central committee member Avi Fahima as an electrician against official advice, paying for her elderly father’s care, inflating dinner party numbers to hire private chefs, and pocketing 23,000 shekels (£4,800) in recycling refunds.

Both the Netanyahus deny any wrongdoing. The couple’s lawyer has said that there is a sustained media campaign to “persecute the Netanyahu family”.

“How far will the persecution of the Netanyahu family go? To the cup of tea the housekeeper served Ms Netanyahu’s 97-year-old father, who lived in her home while on his deathbed?”, Yossi Cohen asked.

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