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Police suspect Benjamin Netanyahu associate of trying to bribe judge

21 February 2018

A close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau that was arrested recently is suspected of offering a judge the country's top justice post in exchange for using the position to kill an investigation into Sara Netanyahu's alleged misuse of public funds, Israeli media reports said Tuesday.

The case police have skipped for now, file 3,000, a.k.a. the Submarine Scandal, is probably the mots serious of all the three or four cases still pending against the prime minister, involving allegations that Netanyahu opted to purchase German submarines to the tune of roughly half a billion euro each (there were three) against the expert opinion of the IDF brass, benefiting his associates.

The prime minister has vehemently denied all the charges and deemed the cases politically motivated, accusing his rivals of attempting to mount a coup.

Hefetz is suspected of suggesting, through a middleman, to Judge Hila Gerstel in 2015 that she could be appointed attorney general if she dismissed a pending case against Sara Netanyahu's excessive household spending.

Gerstel was shocked by the attempted bribe and told then-Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut about it.

"Nir Hefetz never presented this ludicrous offer to the prime minister and his wife, he was never asked by them to make such an offer and we can't imagine that Hefetz would even imagine such a thing", Netanyahu said.

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"This is a new investigation in the Bezeq case as a result of evidence raised in the ISA investigation", a joint statement from the police and Israel Securities Authority or ISA said.

Shaul Elovitch, a family friend of Netanyahu's who controls telecoms firm Bezeq through his Eurocom holding company, was arrested along with his wife, his son and Bezeq's CEO Stella Handler.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves during the opening ceremony for a bomb-proof emergency room in a hospital in Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

In return, Bezeq's popular news site, Walla, allegedly provided favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his family.

Police suspect Elovitch was granted business concessions in return for Netanyahu receiving positive coverage on Walla!, a news website he owns.

Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect in the Bezeq affair, but a spokesman for his family had responded to media reports on the investigation, calling them "yet another empty probe" that would yield nothing.

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Also Tuesday night, Netanyahu released a video on his Facebook page in which he firmly denied any wrongdoing. "I can not believe he raised this possibility with anyone", Netanyahu said.

Last week, in connection with two other cases, Israeli police recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, "opening the way for what could be the biggest challenge yet to the right-wing leader's political survival", says Reuters.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000).

In return, police say Mr Netanyahu had operated on Mr Milchan's behalf on United States visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.

Netanyahu has long accused the Israeli press corps of being biased against him and has taken steps to counter it by promoting more sympathetic outlets.

Israel's police chief, Roni Alsheikh, said Tuesday that the police recommendations were coordinated with the attorney general and were handled in a professional manner.

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Police suspect Benjamin Netanyahu associate of trying to bribe judge