Benjamin Netanyahu suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, police say

Israeli Prime Minister accused of accepting lavish gifts from a billionaire and trying to make underhand deal with newspaper owner

Benjamin Kentish
Thursday 03 August 2017 20:51
Benjamin Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing
Benjamin Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing

Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of having committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Israeli police have confirmed.

The Israeli Prime Minister is accused of offering commercial favours to a newspaper owner in return for positive coverage and of accepting bribes from a Hollywood billionaire.

Investigators have secured a gagging order as they try to persuade the politician's former chief of staff to testify in the cases. The order was granted and will remain in force until 17 September.

A spokesperson for Mr Netanyahu said the claims were untrue and politically-motivated, according to Haaretz.

"We completely reject the unfounded claims made against the prime minister," they said. "The campaign to change the government is underway, but it is destined to fail, for a simple reason: there won't be anything because there was nothing."

Israel's Attorney General, Avichai Mendelblit, said talks with Mr Netanyahu's former chief of staff, Ari Harow, about acting as a witness for the state were "making progress".

Mr Netanyahu is accused of wrongdoing in two separate cases. The first, known as Case 1000, relates to his connections to billionaire Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who he allegedly accepted thousands of pounds worth of lavish gifts from. Reports suggest that, after receiving cigars and champagne, the Israeli Prime Minister lobbied then US Secretary of State John Kerry on Mr Milchan's behalf while he was trying to acquire a new US visa.

Mr Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yaakov Weinroth, is previously reported to have said: “Any reasonable person knows that there is nothing remotely criminal involved when a close friend gives his friend a gift of cigars.”

In the other case, called Case 2000, he is accused of offering commercial favours to Israeli newspaper owner Arnon Mozes in return for more positive coverage. Mr Mozes owns Yedioth Ahronoth - one of Israel's biggest newspapers. Mr Netanyahu is alleged to have offered to cut the ciruclation of Israel Hayom, a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by US billionaire and Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson, if Mr Mozes told his paper to be more favourable towards the Prime Minister.

Cutting the circulation of Israel Hayom, which is distributed free of charge, would benefit Mr Mozes financially because it is the main competitor of his newspaper in the battle for advertising revenues.

Mr Harow is also suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, along with aggravated fraud and money laundering. Recordings found on his phone of conversations between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Mozes are said to form the basis of the Case 2000 investigation.

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