Prosecution leaning toward indicting PM for bribery in gifts probe — report

Prosecution leaning toward indicting PM for bribery in gifts probe — report

Officials said to establish evidence the Netanyahus ‘systematically’ demanded benefits worth NIS 1 million from billionaire Milchan, on whom a decision hasn’t been made

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on May 27, 2018. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on May 27, 2018. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP)

The Tel Aviv prosecution is reportedly leaning toward recommending that the attorney general indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery — in addition to fraud and breach of trust — in the so-called Case 1000 or gifts case, one of several corruption probes against the premier.

Tel Aviv district prosecution’s finance and tax department has established evidence that Netanyahu “systematically” demanded benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, public broadcaster Kan reported Monday.

The report contradicted a Channel 10 report last month that said prosecutors were leaning toward indicting Netanyahu only for breach of trust in the case, as bribery charges would require a higher degree of evidence to prove.

The case, which police handed over to the prosecution in February with recommendations for a bribery charge, involves suspicions that the prime minister and his wife, Sara, received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, in exchange for favors.

Monday’s report said the prosecutors’ inclination was based on the large sum of money, as well as evidence that the Netanyahus’ demands were made over several years and were systematic.

Producer Arnon Milchan accepts the Film Tribute Award at the 26th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street, November 28, 2016, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Emphasizing that the inclination toward indicting Netanyahu for bribery was potentially subject to change, Kan also said the district attorney hasn’t decided yet whether to call for similar charges against Milchan, as police recommended.

Prosecutors are reportedly afraid that in the event Milchan is indicted, he won’t fully cooperate in a future Netanyahu trial and won’t provide the court with the same incriminating evidence he shared in his police interrogations.

The evidence in the case was said to have come from some of Milchan’s closest associates. They included his confidante Hadas Klein, who “testified eight times to police and never changed her version of events by a millimeter,” his accountant Zeev Feldman, and his personal driver, who is said to have transported boxes of champagne and cigars ordered by the prime minister.

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

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at a conference in Jerusalem on February 5, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prosecutors have yet to formulate an opinion on two other probes involving Netanyahu — Case 2000, in which police have also recommended an indictment but which was reopened earlier this month due to new evidence, and Case 4000, which is still an active investigation.

Channel 10 said in April 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 wrongdoing in any of the cases.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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