Israel police want PM and wife tried for graft

Sunday December 2 2018

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By AFP
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Israeli police on Sunday recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara for bribery and other offences, the third such move against the premier in recent months.

Mr Netanyahu immediately rejected the accusations, but the three cases against him have led to speculation that they could eventually force the long-serving prime minister to step down.

The head of the opposition Labour party, Mr Avi Gabbay, renewed his call for Mr Netanyahu to resign after the latest recommendations were released.

The attorney general will now decide whether to bring indictments in the case, which centres on regulatory benefits allegedly granted to telecommunications firm Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage from a related media company.

Police in February recommended indicting the prime minister in two other corruption investigations.

In the findings announced Sunday, police said there was evidence to charge Mr Netanyahu with bribery, fraud, breach of trust and unlawful acceptance.

Were determined

They recommended Ms Sara Netanyahu face charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.

The premier has repeatedly called the allegations against him in all three cases a plot by his political enemies to force him from office.

He argued in a statement that "these recommendations were determined and leaked even before the investigations began."

"I'm sure that in this case the relevant authorities, after examining the issue, will reach the same conclusion: that there was nothing because there is nothing," he said.

Mr Netanyahu did not mention the allegations in his comments at the start of a cabinet meeting later in the day.

The prime minister has been repeatedly questioned by police in the three corruption investigations.

Media adviser

Sunday's recommendations involved Mr Netanyahu, Bezeq and the firm's largest shareholder, Mr Shaul Elovitch.

Mr Netanyahu is accused of seeking favourable coverage from another Elovitch company, the Walla news site, in exchange for policies that could have benefited the mogul's business interests.

Police also recommended indicting Mr Elovitch and his wife Iris for giving bribes, among other offences, while the statement said their son Or should face fraud charges.

There was, however, insufficient evidence to charge Mr Netanyanu's son Yair, police said.

Two key figures have turned state's witnesses in the case, including former media adviser to the Netanyahu family Nir Hefetz.

The other is Mr Shlomo Filber, a Netanyahu ally for more than 20 years and former director general of the communications ministry.

Police said Sunday their investigation found that between 2012 and 2017, "the prime minister and his confidantes crudely and consistently, at times on a daily basis, intervened in the content published by the Walla news website."

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