Netanyahu gifts investigation to drag on until autumn – report
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Netanyahu gifts investigation to drag on until autumn – report

Police said to focus on whether wealthy benefactors expected to receive anything in return for items they gave PM and his wife

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony in Jerusalem, June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony in Jerusalem, June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A corruption investigation focusing on expensive gifts received by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family will reportedly be completed only in early autumn, despite an earlier indication by the state prosecutor that it would be wrapped up much sooner.

The investigation, dubbed Case 1000 by police, revolves around allegedly illicit gifts given to the Netanyahus by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

According to a report Thursday in the Hebrew-language Ynet news site, citing unnamed sources, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit held an update meeting earlier this week that was attended by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan; the Israel Police’s investigations chief, Meni Yitzhaki; and attorneys involved in the case.

During the meeting it became apparent that the investigation is expected to go on for a few more months at least, the sources said.

Earlier this month Nitzan said he hoped the investigation would not go on for many more months and defended the prolonged process so far by saying it was an important case that had to be dealt with carefully.

“If only it were possible to close the investigation more quickly,” Nitzan said at an informal meet-the-public legal event in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market. “Because we are talking about the prime minister, our job is to oversee the investigation, the attorney-general personally, and myself personally. You need to understand that in investigations like this on the one hand you want to proceed as quickly as possible, and on the other hand you can’t leave any stone unturned.”

Protesters have demonstrated outside Mandelblit’s home against what they allege are delay tactics by the attorney general in the criminal investigations into Netanyahu and his wife. They accuse Mandelblit of protecting the premier from prosecution.

Attendees of the recent meeting with the attorney general heard that in the coming months Netanyahu is expected to face investigators in a series of interviews during which they will confront him with all of the suspicions they have and get his responses, Thursday’s report said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In addition, further investigative measures were approved in recent days, and a decision was made to focus on certain aspects of the case to avoid dead ends.

Although the investigation has uncovered a steady stream of gifts that the Netanyahus received — including some that they requested — enforcement officials say it is still too early to tell if an indictment will be served, the report said.

In particular, investigators are trying to determine if the gifts were handed over to Netanyahu because as a public figure he had something to offer, and whether Milchan received, or expected to receive, something in return.

According to reports earlier this year, in 2014 Netanyahu asked then-secretary of state John Kerry three times to arrange a long-term visa for Milchan to live in the United States.

Arnon Milchan, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu on March 28, 2005. (Flash90)
Arnon Milchan, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu on March 28, 2005. (Flash90)

Netanyahu and his wife have denied that receiving the gifts constituted a criminal offense, claiming the value of the items was significantly lower than reported, and that they were mere “trifles” exchanged between close friends. Milchan has maintained that he did not expect anything in return for the gifts.

Another parallel corruption investigation, dubbed Case 2000, is focused on an alleged clandestine quid pro quo deal discussed between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the prime minister promised Mozes he would work to hobble Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth. No such deal was ever implemented. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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