Published: Wed, February 21, 2018
Money | By Michele Stevens

Police name Benjamin Netanyahu associates in Israeli corruption probe

Police name Benjamin Netanyahu associates in Israeli corruption probe

A former senior adviser to Binyamin Netanyahu tried to bribe a leading judge with the job of attorney-general in return for her dropping an investigation into the Israeli prime minister's wife, Sara, police alleged yesterday.

While the Prime Minister has not been named as a suspect in relation to the former corruption scandal involving an Israeli telecommunications company, he has been implicated by association after Israeli media reported he received favourable coverage for himself and his family while he was acting Minister of Communications from late 2014 to February a year ago.

Netanyahu on Monday denied any wrongdoing in the case.

Hefetz is suspected of suggesting, through a middleman, to Judge Hila Gerstel in 2015 that she could be appointed attorney general if she dismissed a pending case against Sara Netanyahu's excessive household spending.

With a gag order lifted Tuesday, police identified them as Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu spokesman, and Shlomo Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu. "He was never asked to make such an offer, and we can not believe Hefetz even considered such a thing", the statement read.

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"This is a new investigation in the Bezeq case as a result of evidence raised in the ISA investigation", a joint statement from the police and ISA said.

Bezeq's controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch is also in custody, along with his wife, son and other top Bezeq executives.

"I never consulted Nir Hefetz on this matter, he never proposed anything to me on this issue, and you know what?"

Last week, in connection with two other cases, Israeli police recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, "opening the way for what could be the biggest challenge yet to the right-wing leader's political survival", says Reuters.

Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect in the Bezeq affair, but a spokesman for his family responded to media reports on the investigation, calling them "yet another empty probe" that would yield nothing.

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They are suspected of promoting a deal to give Netanyahu and his wife favorable coverage in Walla, a news site controlled by Bezeq, in return for the promotion of regulations worth hundreds of millions of USA dollars to the telecom company. Another statement went on to call Caspit's report slanderous and said the journalist, who recently published a book on Benjamin Netanyahu, had an "absurd obsession with the prime minister's wife".

The attorney general must now decide how to move forward with the police recommendations on the Yediot Aharonot affair and another case involving gifts from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, in a process that could take months. Per the bill drafted by Likud's MK Dudi Amsalem, the bill in its present form may not stop already launched investigations against Netanyahu but critics say he could use the bill, if passed, to his advantage during the next round of elections.

In return, police say Mr Netanyahu had operated on Mr Milchan's behalf on United States visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.

Netanyahu immediately said that he did not believe Hefetz made such an offer.

In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper's main rival in return for more favorable coverage.

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