Po­lice inch­ing to­wards Ne­tanyahu in­dict­ment

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - International - TIMES OF IS­RAEL STAFF JERUSALEM

Po­lice are in­creas­ingly mov­ing to­ward rec­om­mend­ing an in­dict­ment against Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu on charges of breach of trust over ex­pen­sive gifts he al­legedly re­ceived from busi­ness­men, Is­raeli tele­vi­sion re­ported last Sun­day, Jan. 22.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­ports, by both Chan­nel 2 and Chan­nel 10, in­ves­ti­ga­tors are con­sid­er­ing an in­dict­ment in one of two cor­rup­tion probes into the prime min­is­ter. Ne­tanyahu has de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ne­tanyahu, his wife Sara and bil­lion­aire Is­raeli film pro­ducer Arnon Milchan forms the core of a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion – known as “Case 1000” – into whether the Ne­tanyahus re­ceived im­proper gifts worth hun­dreds of thou­sands of shekels.

A sec­ond in­ves­ti­ga­tion, known as “Case 2000,” is look­ing into sus­pi­cions Ne­tanyahu ne­go­ti­ated with Is­rael’s top-sell­ing news­pa­per pub­lisher to push leg­is­la­tion to ham­per a com­peti­tor, in re­turn for more favourable cov­er­age.

Quot­ing a se­nior state le­gal source, Chan­nel 2 re­ported of the case in­volv­ing Milchan that “what’s been ex­posed so far is only some of the ma­te­rial. There’s a lot more that the po­lice have re­gard­ing gifts – how of­ten they were made and how valu­able they were.”

Ear­lier on Jan. 22, Is­rael Po­lice Chief Roni Al­sheikh said the probes were close to com­ple­tion.

“We al­ready know what conclusions we have reached in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Al­sheikh told re­porters, with­out elab­o­rat­ing. “I be­lieve we will bring the ma­te­rial to the pros­e­cu­tor for a de­ci­sion in the next few weeks,” he said.

Sources close to Milchan also re­sponded to ac­cu­sa­tions by a law­maker from Ne­tanyahu’s Likud party who had ac­cused the bil­lion­aire of leak­ing de­tails of the gifts in or­der to bring down the prime min­is­ter.

“It is em­bar­rass­ing and wor­ry­ing to see a smear cam­paign that was opened this morn­ing by emis­saries act­ing on be­half of in­ter­ested par­ties against a man who ded­i­cated his life to for­tify the se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity of Is­rael, and used his ex­ten­sive con­nec­tions to strengthen dis­creet diplo­matic ties with coun­tries and lead­ers around the world,” un­named Milchan as­so­ciates told Is­raeli me­dia on Sun­day.

In re­sponse, Ne­tanyahu’s bureau de­nied at­tempts to be­smirch Milchan. “There was no such thing. We don’t in­tend to re­spond to all the false ac­cu­sa­tions,” an of­fi­cial was quoted by He­brew me­dia as say­ing.

The of­fi­cial added that the Ne­tanyahu and Milchan fam­i­lies en­joy “a deep friend­ship” and that the Ne­tanyahus em­phat­i­cally dis­so­ci­ated them­selves from com­ments made against Milchan re­cently.

Un­til now, Milchan, a pow­er­ful Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer and for­mer Is­raeli spy, has been por­trayed as a close friend and bene­fac­tor of Ne­tanyahu and his wife. But MK David Am­salem from Ne­tanyahu’s Likud party charged early Jan. 22 that the Hol­ly­wood mogul him­self is the one be­hind the on­go­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Ne­tanyahus.

Milchan re­port­edly told Is­raeli po­lice un­der ques­tion­ing that the Ne­tanyahus de­manded the cham­pagne and cigars that he has al­legedly been sup­ply­ing them, and that they were not, as they have claimed, merely gifts he gave out of gen­eros­ity and friend­ship.

Am­salem charged that the on­go­ing leaks of ma­te­rial from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion were de­signed to turn the pub­lic against Ne­tanyahu.

“There is a sys­tem,” he said. “To bring down the prime min­is­ter you need to cre­ate the pub­lic at­mos­phere. Ev­ery week some­thing else comes out.”

Asked what Milchan was try­ing to do, Am­salem replied: “To bring down the prime min­is­ter.”

Milchan’s tes­ti­mony may be a turn­ing point in the case. While leaked re­ports of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion have in­di­cated that Milchan spent some NIS 400,000-600,000 ($140,000-$210,000) on cham­pagne and cigars for the Ne­tanyahus over the best part of a decade, the prime min­is­ter and his wife have re­port­edly told po­lice that the sums in­volved were far lower, and that the gifts were un­re­mark­able since the Milchans are their best friends.

YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90

Chief of Po­lice Roni Al­sheikh speaks with the me­dia dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at po­lice head­quar­ters in Jerusalem on Jan. 22.

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