Israeli police have recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery in two criminal investigations, including one which allegedly involves Australian mogul James Packer.
The Israeli leader has called the allegations baseless and vowed to remain in office.
Now deep in a cloud of uncertainty over his political future, the right-wing leader will await a final decision by Israel’s attorney-general on whether he will face charges, a process that could take weeks or even months.
The recommendations, which police made public on Tuesday night, were at the more serious end of the range of charges that had been expected to be levelled against Netanyahu, now in his fourth term. The investigations have gone on for more than a year.
One of the cases, known as Case 1000, alleges the “committing of crimes of bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the prime minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu.”
In a detailed statement, police named Packer and Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer, saying that they “over years awarded gifts of various types”, including champagne, cigars and jewellery to Netanyahu and his family.
In all, the gifts were worth more than one million shekels ($A392,000), the statement said.
The Australian Federal Police interviewed Mr Packer last December and he reportedly corroborated previous testimony by Milchan that the gifts were organised in response to demands by the Netanyahus.
The Australian billionaire said the gifts were organised by Milchan’s assistant.
“She would put together whatever was needed and what was still missing and I would approve it,” . That’s how it worked,” Packer recounted, adding he had never asked for anything in return.
Netanyahu’s lawyers have said the presents were simply tokens of friendship.
The second, Case 2000, also alleges “bribery, fraud and breach of trust by the prime minister” and by the publisher of the biggest-selling Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Arnon Mozes. The two men, police say, discussed ways of slowing the growth of a rival daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, “through legislation and other means”.
Netanyahu, who denies wrongdoing, has been questioned several times by police since the start of 2017.
In a televised address from his Jerusalem residence just minutes after police made public their recommendations, Netanyahu said he had never sought personal gain in his public service.
Against the backdrop of Israeli flags, he spoke in sombre tones as he recounted his days as an Israeli commando and reaffirmed his commitment to Israel’s security.
“I will continue to lead Israel responsibly and faithfully for as long as you, the citizens of Israel choose me to lead you,” he said.
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