Israeli police said on Sunday that there is enough evidence to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a third corruption investigation.
According to a police statement, authorities found evidence of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.
Police also said there is enough evidence to charge the Israeli leader’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, with fraud, receiving bribes, and interfering with an investigation.
The case, known as Case 4000, is one of the largest facing the Israeli leader and his inner circle. It deals with the relationship between the Ministry of Communications – then under Netanyahu – and Israeli telecommunications firm Bezeq.
Investigators say Netanyahu advanced regulatory benefits worth up to 1 billion shekels (approximately $280 million) to Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq, and Netanyahu’s friend. In exchange, prosecutors say Elovitch gave Netanyahu favorable news coverage in online news site Walla! News, which is owned by Elovitch.
Police say there is enough evidence to charge Elovitch with bribery, interfering with an investigation, and financial crimes.
Both Netanyahu and Elovitch have denied any wrongdoing.
In response to the police statement, Netanyahu said, “The police recommendations against me and my wife do not surprise anyone. These recommendations were decided and leaked before the investigation had even begun. The police recommendations have no legal standing.”
“There was nothing because there is nothing,” he concluded.
Corruption probes building against Netanyahu
Police have already said there is enough evidence to indict Netanyahu on charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust in two separate cases. A final decision whether to prosecute lies with Israel’s Attorney General.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of having received gifts from businessmen overseas totaling 1 million shekels (approximately $280,000), including cigars, champagne, jewelry and more, from 2007 through 2016.
The second case, called Case 2000, involves conversations Netanyahu had with Arnon Mozes, the owner of one of Israel’s leading newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth, which is regularly critical of the Prime Minister.
In the conversations, which became public through transcripts leaked in Israeli media, Netanyahu allegedly discusses limiting the circulation of Yedioth Ahronot’s biggest competition in favor of more favorable coverage. Both Netanyahu and Mozes have said they were not serious discussions; rather, they each claim they were trying to expose the other’s lack of trustworthiness.
Sara Netanyahu faces her own probe
The Prime Minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, was charged in July with fraud and breach of trust in a separate investigation, alleging misuse of state funds at the couple’s official residence.
Prosecutors say Sara Netanyahu used state money to pay for $100,000 worth of meals at the prime minister’s residence. She also illegally paid approximately $10,000 for private chefs, prosecutors said.
Her lawyers slammed the indictment in July, describing it as “false and hallucinatory. There was no fraud, no breach of trust or any other felony.”
Opposition demands Netanyahu resign
Following the latest statement from police on Sunday, opposition politicians once again called on Netanyahu to resign.
Tzipi Livni, the former Foreign Minister, said, “Netanyahu has to go before he takes down law enforcement authorities in order to save himself. The people of Israel deserve clean leadership.”
“A prime minister with so many criminal cases around him cannot continue in his job and must resign,” said Avi Gabbay, the head of the Labor party.
Netanyahu has the backing he needs… for now
Despite the ongoing criminal investigations, which began a year and a half ago, Netanyahu has held on to the support of his Likud party and his coalition. Only the Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon, who heads the Kulanu party, has said he will withdraw support for Netanyahu if he is indicted.
Under Israeli law, Netanyahu does not have to resign until he is convicted and that conviction is upheld through the appeals process.
The decision to indict the Prime Minister can only be made by the Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, who will now review the findings of the police investigation.