Netanyahu indicted for bribery and fraud charges

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Netanyahu indicted for bribery and fraud charges
Netanyahu indicted for bribery and fraud charges :File Photo

Netanyahu has been indicted on corruption charges, raising more uncertainty over who will ultimately lead a country mired in political chaos.

Israel’s attorney general has indicted Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, in a damning blow to the prime minister as he fights for his political survival.

Announcement presents one of the gravest challenges yet to Israel’s longest-serving leader with no government in sight.

Avichai Mandelblit charged the 70-year-old leader on Thursday in all three major corruption cases for which he was investigated. It was the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime.

In the 63-page indictment, Netanyahu was accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of pounds in luxury gifts from billionaire friends and for trading favours with Israeli media moguls for positive news coverage.

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With no clear route to continue his premiership, Netanyahu’s fate has been thrown into limbo as he faces multiple explosive court cases that could drag on for years, all while under intense political pressure.

Netanyahu has vehemently denied all the allegations, calling the corruption investigation a “witch-hunt” and alleging it has been motivated by his enemies’ desire to force him from office. He will make a statement at 20:30 GMT.

Israeli law does not require Netanyahu to step down from the post of prime minister if indicted. The entire process of an indictment and trial could take two years.
As prime minister, he would only be forced to resign from the post if he is eventually convicted, where he could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine for bribery charges alone, while fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
In February, Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu on charges of fraud, breach of trust, and bribery, following up on police recommendations.

The investigations were listed as Cases 4,000, 1,000, and 2,000.
The allegations against Netanyahu range from receiving gifts worth thousands of dollars to a deal to change regulatory frameworks in favour of a media group in exchange for favourable press coverage.
Case 1,000 alleges Netanyahu and his wife wrongfully received gifts from Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen, as well as from Australian billionaire James Packer, in return for political favours.

The gifts included champagne and cigars, according to reports.

In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is suspected to have struck a deal with the owner of Israel’s daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth to receive favourable media coverage in return for legislation that would slow the growth of competing newspaper Israel Hayom.

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Of the investigations against Netanyahu, Case 4,000 is seen as the most serious.

He is alleged to have negotiated with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, to get positive coverage on his Walla! news site in exchange for policies benefitting Bezeq.

Netanyahu has previously stated he would not resign if indicted.