State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan has decided to expand the legal team working on two corruption investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, putting the project under the leadership of a top corruption prosecutor, Channel 10 reported on Sunday.
In what they have dubbed “Case 1000,” police are probing expensive gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by US-Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, and whether any actions subsequently taken on their behalf amount to graft or conflicts of interest. The gifts were reportedly valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and included expensive cigars, champagne, meals and hotel rooms. Another businessman, Chaim Zlabudowicz, has also given testimony in the affair.
A second investigation, dubbed “Case 2000,” concerns the prime minister’s recorded discussions with the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily Arnon Mozes about a quid pro quo deal to restrict the activities of a rival newspaper through legislation. No such deal was ever implemented.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied that the gifts and discussions under investigations were illegal.
According to the report, Nitzan intends to assign prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari, of the Tel Aviv District Prosecutor’s finance and tax department, to head the legal team.
Ben-Ari was a prosecutor in the so-called Holyland Affair, a corruption case involving a high-rise real estate project of the same name in Jerusalem that led to the conviction of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Olmert was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in March 2014 in the corruption case — others included former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski — which officials have characterized as among the largest graft cases in Israel’s history. Olmert’s conviction in the affair was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court, though Olmert was imprisoned for other corruption offenses.
Nitzan’s decision may indicate that the criminal investigations into the prime minister are becoming more serious. The decision also delays the proceedings until the new team can learn the material, the report said.