Police are said to be considering recommending an indictment on bribery charges against Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who is suspected of allegedly bribing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family with expensive gifts, a report on the Ynet news site said Thursday.
On Tuesday, a report by Hadashot TV said police are set to recommend pressing bribery charges against Netanyahu next week in the case. Hebrew-language media reported the following day that senior police officials are in unanimous agreement on the matter, and that a “final” discussion on the investigation by top police brass had been held.
Milchan is a suspect in one of the two cases involving Netanyahu, dubbed “Case 1000” by police, in which investigators are probing whether Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of gourmet cigars and champagne from Milchan, and whether Milchan received anything in return.
The second case, “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 use his influence to weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
At the discussion among top police officials, headed by Commissioner Roni Alsheich, a document was presented stipulating that there is sufficient evidence to charge the prime minister for receiving bribes, fraud, and breach of trust in Case 1000, Hadashot reported.
Netanyahu denies the allegations, arguing that Milchan is an old friend, and that the gifts were not a bribe.
According to the Ynet news site in a Thursday report, police are now also considering recommending that Milchan be charged in the case.
The report contradicts earlier leaks in recent weeks that said Milchan’s testimony was considered so vital to the investigation that police would not recommend he be prosecuted in the case.
“This is going to be a last-minute decision,” unnamed law enforcement sources told Ynet, noting that there were two instances in which police believe they may have found a quid pro quo for the alleged bribe: when Netanyahu helped Milchan obtain a visa to the US, and when Netanyahu intervened in the dispute over the closure of Channel 10, in which Milchan is an investor.
The evidence, say the sources, is sufficiently robust that Milchan may no longer be a vital prosecution witness, and so is more likely to be facing the dock himself.
Some Hebrew media reports say that extra evidence was obtained in lengthy questioning of Milchan’s personal assistant, Hadas Klein, who allegedly received the requests for the luxury items from the Netanyahus and facilitated the transfer of the cigards and champagne bottles to the prime minister’s home.
Klein also worked for Australian billionaire James Packer, who has also been questioned in the case and is believed to have sent lavish gifts of his own to the Netanyahus over the years.
Netanyahu himself hit back on Wednesday at the news reports signaling the imminent issuing of the police recommendations in the two graft cases, asserting that while investigators will endorse charges against him, law enforcement officials will ultimately conclude that “there is nothing.”
Netanyahu published a video message on his Facebook page late Wednesday acknowledging there would be likely be recommendations for indictment, while noting that police recommendations are often dropped by prosecutors.
“I want to calm you: there will be nothing, because I know the truth,” said Netanyahu. “The law says the person qualified to determine whether there is evidence against the prime minister is the attorney general, and he discusses the matter with the state attorney. The state attorney recently said in the Knesset that about half of police recommendations end with nothing.
“So rest assured,” he added. “There will be recommendations, there will also be signs saying ‘Bibi is guilty until proven otherwise,’ and there will be improper pressure, too. But I’m sure that at the end of the day the legal authorities will arrive at one conclusion, at the simple truth: there is nothing.”