Netanyahu's confidants arrested in corruption probe

A confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of attempting to bribe a judge in return for closing a corruption case against Netanyahu's wife, the police said Tuesday.

The prime minister, who held the communications portfolio until previous year, has not yet been named as a suspect in either of this week's cases, though he may soon be questioned.

Netanyahu and his family's spokesman, Ofer Golan, has denied the allegations.

"A senior public servant was approached with a proposal to help promote her appointment to the position of attorney general, allegedly in exchange for a future promise by the candidate regarding her future decision in a certain criminal case", the police said in a statement.

The Haaretz daily revealed that Gerstel, at the time, disclosed the offer to her friend Esther Hayut - then a judge on the Supreme Court and today Israel's chief justice. "He was never asked to make such an offer, and we can not believe Hefetz even considered such a thing", the statement read.

Hefetz and six other suspects were arrested Sunday in connection with yet another probe involving central figures in the Bezeq telecommunications group, known as "Case 4000" to differentiate it from three other probes targeting Netanyahu or his inner circle.

Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder and CEO of the country's biggest telecoms company, and his wife have also been arrested as part of the probe.

Netanyahu rejected the suspicions and said they had no substance.

Filber was appointed by Netanyahu in 2015, after the prime minister installed himself as communications minister.

More news: Federal Bureau of Investigation says USA man stole thumb of Chinese terracotta warrior statue

In total, police say they arrested seven people on multiple charges including obstruction of justice and fraud.

They are suspected of promoting a deal to give Netanyahu and his wife favorable coverage in Walla, a news site controlled by Bezeq, in return for the promotion of regulations worth hundreds of millions of US dollars to the telecom company.

Also Tuesday night, Netanyahu released a video on his Facebook page in which he firmly denied any wrongdoing.

According to a police leak to Ynet, the prime minister's former spokesman Boaz Stambler, now director of the Government Advertising Bureau (LPM), has already testified regarding the thick ties between the PM's office and Walla regarding the news website's favorable coverage and pressures on Walla's staff to skew their reports.

Netanyahu is not now suspected of dispatching Hefetz to extend the offer to the judge, Hadashot TV reported.

According to the police, Netanyahu and his family received goods, including jewelry, cigars, and Champaign, worth about one million shekels (282,800 dollars) from Israeli businessman and Hollywood tycoon Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer. In return, police say Netanyahu operated on Milchan's behalf on US visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman. Netanyahu dismissed the investigations as "delusional, fabricated claims" that are part of an "orchestrated campaign" against him and vowed to "continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly, discreetly and with great dedication".

In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper's main rival in return for more favourable coverage.

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

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