Police recommend charging Netanyahu
And new reports said the key witness against the prime minister in one of the cases was his political rival former finance minister Yair Lapid.
The recommendations include indictments for bribery in both Case 1000 and Case 2000, as they have been dubbed. A decision to press formal charges against the veteran premier now rests with the attorney-general’s office, which is expected to take weeks or months to decide how to proceed.
According to police, Netanyahu made a number of quid pro quo deals to receive favours from businesspeople in return for passing laws that would benefit them financially.
Police said that in Case 1000 there is sufficient evidence against the prime minister on suspicions of the offence of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust regarding his connection with businessman Arnon Milchan, and fraud and breach of trust in connection with the Australian businessman James Packer”.
In Case 2000, they are recommending prosecuting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts amounting to (R3.4 million worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Milchan and Australian resort owner Packer.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, Israel Hayom, in return for more favourable coverage from Yedioth.
In addition to charging Netanyahu, police also recommend indicting Milchan and Mozes.
According to reports on Tuesday evening, Yesh Atid leader Lapid was a central witness against Netanyahu, providing evidence that the prime minister pushed for amendments to a law that would give his benefactors millions of dollars in tax breaks.
The recommendations were presented to the State Prosecution earlier on Monday for consideration by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who alone has the power to bring charges against a sitting prime minister.
The statement from the police is expected to be followed in the next few days by a more detailed explanation from the State Prosecution, which will lay out each proposed charge against the prime minister.
Responding to the recommendations, Netanyahu said the months-long investigation into his alleged corruption amounted to “slander” against him and his family.
He said 15 investigations had been opened against him in order to “topple him from power”.
The prime minister further said he actively undercut Mozes in dissolving his government in 2013 to avoid the passage of the legislation that would hobble Israel Hayom.
The recommendations conclude two year-long investigations into alleged corruption by Netanyahu that have seen numerous leaks to media outlets. Netanyahu has been questioned in the cases seven times.
Police said that in return for the gifts, Netanyahu pushed a number of projects and even legislation that benefited Milchan and Packer directly.
The most significant of those, police said, was Netanyahu’s effort to extend a 10-year tax exemption on income earned abroad to new immigrants as well as to returning residents who have lived abroad for at least 10 years and other eligible new residents.
Milchan would have probably saved millions of dollars from the law had it not been thwarted by the Treasury.
In addition, Milchan and Netanyahu promoted a free trade zone near the Jordan-Israel border that personally benefited Milchan, a trade holder, and pushed for a deal to merge Israeli media outlets, one partly owned by Milchan, according to police.
Netanyahu also allegedly worked to help Milchan regain his US visa.
The police also concluded that in the second case, Netanyahu and Mozes had cut a mutually beneficial deal.
Police said that Netanyahu offered his support for a bill to close Israel Hayom, to help shrink the newspaper’s circulation numbers and to nix the free daily’s weekend edition. The law did not pass, as the government folded and went to elections in 2015.