Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu Facing Bribery, Fraud Charges


Police in Israel recommended last night that Binyamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust after completing a year-long corruption investigation. Police say they discussed an illicit deal whereby the paper would soften its anti-Netanyahu line in return for the prime minister using his influence to curtail the growth of a competitor newspaper, Israel Hayom.

Israeli police have recommended corruption charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over suspicions that he and his family had received expensive gifts from a Hollywood producer and an Australian billionaire.

In both cases, the police have alleged "bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the prime minister".

In all, the gifts were worth more than one million shekels (RM1.1 million), the statement said. In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of conspiring with the owner of Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper to undermine Israel Hayom, a competing free daily backed by US casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, chairman and majority owner of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

For months, police have been investigating two cases.

Following the police recommendations, Israel's Attorney General will decide whether to indict Netanyahu.

"I wish for the prime minister that he end his term quickly and in a seemly manner", Olmert, also known for his taste for fine cigars, was quoted as saying.

The prime minister praised the public for "uniting in a moment when they were being tested" over the weekend due to the security situation in the North.

In his television appearance, minutes after police made their recommendations public, Netanyahu, 68, recounted his military service as a commando and said he had never sought personal gain from politics.

He also acted to promote a law that gives tax exemption for returning Israeli residents who were living overseas for over 10 years, known as the "Milchan Bill", and helped Milchan to promote his investment in the Israeli media.

Netanyahu, who happens to be among President Donald Trump's closest foreign allies, has denied the allegations. "I will continue to lead Israel responsibly and faithfully for as long as you, the citizens of Israel choose me to lead you", he said.

Investigators announced on Tuesday that they have enough evidence to file criminal charges against Netanyahu. Police said Mozes should also face charges.

However, the case could set a precedent in Israel's Supreme Court, which has ruled previously that government ministers or their deputies cannot continue to serve after being indicted.

"How can allegations be taken seriously that in exchange for cigars I acted for Arnon Milchen's benefit?" he said.

These are clearly trying times, which is why so many members of the opposition, such as Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) have already recommended that Netanyahu take time out, find a replacement from within his own party and go fight his legal battle.