Israeli Police Arrest Confidants Of Prime Minister Netanyahu

21 February, 2018, 08:05 | Author: Sheri Evans
  • Israeli Police Arrest Confidants Of Prime Minister Netanyahu

Israeli police targeted associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the latest corruption investigation involving the leader and his inner circle Tuesday.

Gerstel was shocked by the attempted bribe and told then-Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut about it.

The prime minister, who held the communications portfolio until a year ago, has not yet been named as a suspect in either of this week's cases, though he may soon be questioned.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Netanyahu - who has described the investigations against him as a "witch hunt" - said: "There has never been any payback or illegal act in interaction with Elovitch".

"Hefetz never made such a ludicrous offer and was never asked to do so, and we can not believe he would do such a thing on his own accord", Netanyahu said.

Last September Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said he was considering indicting Sara Netanyahu for fraud over suspected use of state funds for personal dining and catering services amounting to some $100,000.

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Earlier on Tuesday, with an initial gag order lifted, police identified Mr Hefetz and Shlomo Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu, as the two suspects in promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel's Bezeq telecom company, in return for favourable coverage of Mr Netanyahu in a highly popular subsidiary news site.

"I never asked Nir Hefetz about this, he never spoke to me about it, and you know what?"

The arrests were carried out Sunday following a joint investigation between police and the Israel Securities Authority, which had conducted its own probe previous year.

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

Filber was appointed by Netanyahu in 2015, after the prime minister installed himself as communications minister.

Hefetz was among seven people arrested on Sunday, just days after police said there were grounds to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust, in the biggest challenge yet to the right-wing premier's long tenure in power. 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".

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Netanyahu has not been named in the new probe.

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.

Supporters of the premier said Alsheich's interview with Israel's Channel 2 television further weakened the public's trust in the police, perceived by some as attempting to frame Netanyahu. "In return, police say, Netanyahu had operated on Milchan's behalf on United States visa matters, introduced a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman", reports The Guardian.

Meanwhile, police believe Netanyahu sought a secret deal for favorable coverage with the publisher of top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot, whose publisher Arnon Moses could also face bribery charges.

Israel's police chief, Roni Alsheikh, said Tuesday that the police recommendations were coordinated with the attorney general and were handled in a professional manner.

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