Champagne and bribery: the cases ensnaring Israel's Netanyahu

03 March, 2018, 00:20 | Author: Jason Torres
  • Israeli Government Press Office shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara waving as they depart Israel to the United States early

Israeli authorities questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday for the first time in a corruption case which involves the nation's biggest telecommunications company Bezeq, Israel Radio said.

As police and Israeli Security Agency investigators arrived at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, demonstrators protested outside - calling for Netanyahu's resignation.

Media reports say Nir Hefetz and Eli Kamir, both former media advisers for the Netanyahu family, are alleged in 2015 to have offered judge Hila Gerstel a promotion in return for closing the criminal case.

In the newest investigation, known as Case 4000, police allege that the owners of Bezeq Israel Telecom provided favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his wife on a news website they controlled in return for favors from communications regulators.

A Reuters cameraman saw a vehicle carrying two police officers pull to the prime minister's official home on Friday morning.

Filber, a Netanyahu ally for more than 20 years and a former communications ministry director general, is expected be a state witness in exchange for avoiding jail.

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"A prime minister under investigation can not, and may not, take crucial decisions", said Shuki Cohen, 63, an economist from Moshav Arugot.

"A prime minister under investigation can not, and may not, take crucial decisions", Shuki Cohen, a 63-year-old economist from Moshav Arugot, said.

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He is accused of mediating between Netanyahu and Elovitch and promoting regulatory changes worth millions to Bezeq.

In one case, Netanyahu allegedly received over $100,000 in gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and other wealthy associates.

Case 2000 concerns allegations Netanyahu sought a deal with the owner of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper that would have seen it give him more favourable coverage.

Israel's attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, must decide whether to press charges in either case, a decision that could take months.

So far, partners in Mr Netanyahu's governing coalition have stood by him, saying that they are awaiting the next moves by the Attorney-General.

Bezeq's owner, Shaul Elovitch, is a longtime friend of Netanyahu and has also been detained as part of the investigation.

Netanyahu could also call a snap election to try to stall legal proceedings during the campaign and rally his rightwing power base behind him.

Investigators are in possession of correspondence between Sara Netanyahu and Elovitch's wife that appear to implicate the prime minister's wife in the burgeoning scandal, Channel 10 news reported Thursday. A third think he should remain in office.

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