Prosecution eyeing Netanyahu indictment in gifts probe — report

Prosecutors said to lean toward breach of trust rather than bribery charge against PM, as it would requires less evidence

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on April 15, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on April 15, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Flash90)

Prosecutors will recommend charging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with breach of trust in a case involving lavish gifts that he received from billionaire businessmen, and will not pursue more serious bribery charges against the premier, Channel 10 news reported Monday.

In February, police recommended Netanyahu be charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust in so-called Case 1000, in which police say he and his wife, Sara, received illicit gifts amounting to NIS 1 million ($282,000) from Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer.

Police said that in return for the goods he received from wealthy associates, Netanyahu pushed a number of projects in their benefit.

But according to Monday’s report, the Tel Aviv District Prosecutor’s finance and tax department is leaning toward indicting Netanyahu only for breach of trust in the case, as bribery charges would require a higher degree of evidence to prove.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, at a July 2015 cabinet meeting, when Mandelblit was serving as cabinet secretary. (Emil Salman/Pool)

Additionally, charging Netanyahu with only breach of trust would mean Milchan would not be indicted, allowing him to testify in the case, the report said, adding that the recommendations will be presented to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in a few months.

The recommendations themselves are not binding and any decision to indict ultimately rests with Mandelblit himself.

Prosecutors have yet to formulate an opinion on two other probes involving Netanyahu — Case 2000, in which police have also recommended an indictment, and Case 4000, which is still an active investigation.

However, Channel 10 said that those two cases “strengthen one another,” and that if Netanyahu were to be charged in one, he would also be indicted on the other.

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, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Case 4000 involves suspicions that Netanyahu made regulatory decisions favoring the Bezeq telecom giant, and in exchange demanded favorable coverage from the popular Walla news site. Both Bezeq and Walla are owned by the same man, Shaul Elovitch.

Netanyahu and his wife have denied any wrongdoing.

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