Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu should be charged with bribery and fraud, say police

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be charged with bribery and fraud, police have said.

The country’s police force said they had found enough evidence to bring the charges against the leader and his wife, Sara, in a third corruption case.

Authorities claim Mr Netanyahu awarded regulatory favours to the country’s leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel, in return for more favourable coverage of him and his wife on its news website, Walla.

Mr Netanyahu, who has led Israel for four terms, has denied any wrongdoing.

The newest police recommendation comes as his right-wing coalition’s majority was reduced to just one seat in parliament, having enjoyed an almost total dominance in Israeli politics.

Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit will make the final decision as to whether to indict the prime minister.

He is already considering whether to charge Mr Netenyahu in two other cases, one relating to allegations the politician accepted presents from businessmen.

The couple on a visit to the White House in March
The PM and his wife Sara on a visit to the White House in March

The prime minister is also accused of trying to strike a deal with a different leading media company for better coverage in return for limitations being placed on a rival newspaper.

Most of his coalition partners have said they will wait for a decision by the attorney general before making any decisions on how to react to the allegations.

Some analysts say Mr Netanyahu could call a snap election because of the legal proceedings, with the next national vote not due until November 2019.

However, he may want to seek a renewed mandate from the people to force a prosecutor to think twice before indicting him.

In a joint statement from Israel’s police and the Israel securities authority, police said they also found sufficient evidence to charge Mr Netanyahu’s family friend, Shaul Elovitch, with bribery.

Mr Elovitch was chairman and controlling shareholder of Bezeq at the time of the allegations.

There is also enough evidence to charge the company’s then-CEO, Stella Handler, with fraud, the statement said.

Both Mr Elovitch and Ms Handler have denied any wrongdoing after they were arrested and detained briefly this year, prompting their resignations.

The statement said: “The main suspicion is that the prime minister took bribes and acted out of a conflict of interest by intervening and making regulatory decisions that favour Shaul Elovitch and Bezeq.”

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Mr Netanyahu said the allegations had no legal basis and nothing would come of the investigation.

“I am sure that also in this case the relevant authorities, after examining the matter, will reach the same conclusion – that there was nothing because there is nothing,” he said.

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