Netanyahu faces third corruption charge after police recommend indictment in Bezeq-Walla! affair

December 3, 2018 by Yona Schnitzer - TPS
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The Israeli Police have recommended that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara be indicted for bribery after a joint investigation with the Israel Securities Authority revealed evidence of an alleged conspiracy to promote legislation that would benefit Bezeq Group Chairman Shaul Elovitch’s business dealings, in exchange for positive coverage of the couple in the Bezeq-owned Walla! News website.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Kobi Richter/TPS on 18 November, 2018

The so-called Case 4,000 investigation involved suspicions that during the years 2012-2017 when Netanyahu served as communications minister, in addition to being prime minister, agreed to promote Bezeq’s economic interests in exchange for favourable coverage by Walla! News, both of which were controlled at the time by Elovitch.

According to the findings of the investigation, the prime minister worked to promote Shaul Elovitch’s regulatory interests, including with regard to the merger of Bezeq and YES, conditioning promotion of those interests on positive coverage in Walla,” police said in a statement.

Elovitch and his wife Iris, as well as senior former Bezeq officials Amikam Shorer and Stella Handler also face charges in the affair. Police said they had not found sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu’s son Yair.

In response to the police recommendation, Netanyahu issued a statement denying the accusations, calling them politically motivated and insisting they hold no legal standing.

“The police recommendations regarding me and my wife are a surprise to no one, nor is the timing in which they were published,” Netanyahu said “These recommendations were decided upon and leaked even before the investigations began. Police recommendations have no legal standing… I am sure that the relevant authorities will reach the conclusion that there won’t be anything because there isn’t anything there.”

The case is the third in which police have recommended that charges be brought against the prime minister; Case 2000, in which he is suspected of attempting a similar pay-for-play deal with Yedioth Ahronoth owner Noni Mozes, and Case 1000, in which Netanyahu faces allegations that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of “gifts” from wealthy benefactors, most notably expensive cigars and champagne provided by the billionaire Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. The prime minister says the gifts were nothing more than gifts between friends and insists there was no “give and take” associated with them.

Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni called upon Netanyahu to resign and for elections to be held immediately.

“Bribery! the Israeli Police have recommended that Netanyahu be charged with bribery,” Livni tweeted, adding that Netanyahu “must go before he destroys law enforcement authorities in an attempt to save his own skin. The people of Israel deserve clean leadership. Elections now!”

Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay said: “Netanyahu has become a burden for Israel. he must resign from his position. A Prime Minister with so many corruptions cases surrounding him cannot continue his role and he must resign. A person who is fueled by a sick obsession over what the media says about him cannot lead the State of Israel, and every additional day he is in office is damaging to the people of Israel.”

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