Damning leaks from the ongoing investigations into Benjamin Netanyahu continued to trickle out Tuesday, with police reported to have seized hours of tapes from negotiations the prime minister held with a dominant media mogul over a mutually beneficial deal. Those recordings are said to prove, among other things, that Netanyahu initiated the illicit meetings.
Police have two tapes, each containing hours of conversations between Netanayhu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, recorded on multiple occasions, Haaretz reported. The apparent deal on the table, which was never implemented, would have seen the prime minister work to reduce the circulation of the Israel Hayom daily newspaper — Yedioth’s biggest rival — in exchange for more favorable coverage in Yedioth.
As well as initiating the meetings, Netanyhau was previously reported to have instructed his then-chief of staff, Ari Harow, to secretly record them.
Mozes, often described as a long-time arch-nemesis of the prime minister, is reportedly being investigated under caution by police, along with Netanyahu, over their dealings. The prime minister has been questioned by police twice in the past two weeks over those negotiations, as well as over a separate case involving gifts given to him by businessmen. Mozes reportedly faced police questioning for the first time early last week.
Both men are reportedly set to be questioned again in the coming days.
In the second case, police have seized receipts for gifts worth up to NIS 400,000 ($104,000) given to Netanyahu over a number of years by Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, Channel 10 news reported Monday night. The receipts were reportedly seized during a raid on Milchan’s offices in Ramat Gan.
Police have been investigating allegations that a number of businessmen have given lucrative gifts to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, over his years in office. Last week, Channel 2 news reported that Milchan was one of up to four businessmen eyed as suspected benefactors of the Netanyahus. Milchan is alleged to have provided the prime minister with a steady supply of expensive cigars and his wife with champagne for years.
Channel 2 further reported over the weekend that Netanyahu had asked US Secretary of State John Kerry three times in 2014 to intervene on behalf of Milchan and arrange a long-term visa for Milchan to live in the United States. The visa was indeed arranged.
In a report Sunday, Channel 10 said that in addition to Milchan, Australian billionaire James Packer was also paying for meals for the Netanyahus at their private residence in Caesarea, as well as cigars and champagne. Packer and Milchan are friends and have mutual business interests.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined a request Tuesday from the Times of Israel to comment on the latest reports over the receipts or on whether the prime minister had initiated the meetings with Mozes.
Netanyahu is expected to claim that he instructed Harow to record the meetings for fear that Mozes would try to extort him. Netanyahu had initiated the contact with Mozes in an attempt to suppress a story about his son Yair, reports said.
It appears that the recordings were found at Harow’s home by police during a separate investigation into suspicions that Harow had fabricated the sale of a consulting company he owned. Harow, who headed the Prime Minister’s Office from 2014 to early 2015, is expected to be charged in the coming weeks, Haaretz reported Tuesday.
A spokesman for the state prosecutor told The Times of Israel Tuesday that there has been no final decision on the indictment as the investigation had not yet been completed.
According to the report, Harow will likely be charged with fraud and breach of trust, with a police source telling the paper that the case is “serious and backed by evidence.”
A spokesperson representing Harow’s 3H Global consulting firm declined to comment on the investigation.
In July 2016, Harow was detained and questioned, reportedly in connection with a corruption investigation involving the prime minister. After a week under house arrest, police released Harow, saying that they would not seek to extend his detainment. The investigation, which was subject to a partial gag order, reportedly involved suspicions of massive money laundering.
Months earlier, in December 2015, Harow was questioned by police under caution for a “range” of offenses he was suspected to have committed while working in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Harow first worked for Netanyahu as foreign affairs adviser during his spell as leader of the opposition. He then spearheaded the 2009 election campaign that catapulted Netanyahu back to office. Following the election, he served as the prime minister’s bureau chief until 2010, managing the prime minister’s schedule and advising him on a range of issues.
Harow took a break from politics in 2010, when he founded 3H Global, an Israel-based consulting firm. He later returned as chief-of-staff of the PMO in 2014, serving there for a year before leaving to run the 2015 election campaign for Netanyahu’s Likud party.