New woes for Netanyahu as associates probed in fresh graft cases

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem

A close ally to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to implicate him in yet another corruption case.

While the Prime Minister has not been named as a suspect in relation to the former corruption scandal involving an Israeli telecommunications company, he has been implicated by association after Israeli media reported he received favourable coverage for himself and his family while he was acting Minister of Communications from late 2014 to February past year.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases.

A major new spin-off development from the newly revealed Attorney-General Job Affair came out a few hours later on Tuesday afternoon, when it was reported that the police would question Supreme Court President Esther Hayut on Tuesday night.

With a gag order lifted Tuesday, police identified them as Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu spokesman, and Shlomo Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu.

"Hefetz never made such a ludicrous offer and was never asked to do so and we can not believe he would do such a thing on his own accord", a statement issued on behalf of the prime minister read.

Tuesday's revelations came as police commissioner Roni Alsheich faced a parliamentary committee after outrage among lawmakers over a recent interview, in which he said that detectives probing Netanyahu had been targeted by private investigators to dig up dirt on them.

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.

Israeli media reports said the corruption probe, dubbed "Case 4,000" centres around alleged government benefits provided in exchange for positive media coverage of Netanyahu by a news subsidiary of Bezeq, Israel's largest telecom company.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves during the opening ceremony for a bomb-proof emergency room in a hospital in Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman of the Netanyahu family, is suspected of suggesting to Judge Hila Gerstel that she could be appointed attorney general if she killed a pending case against Sara Netanyahu's excessive household spending.

Among those arrested is Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu's former family spokesperson, and Shaul Elovitch, the multi-millionaire owner of an Israeli news organization who is considered a close friend of Netanyahu.

Supporters of the premier said Alsheich's interview with Israel's Channel 2 television further weakened the public's trust in the police, perceived by some as attempting to frame Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.

In return, police say Mr Netanyahu had operated on Mr Milchan's behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman. Trump, said a White House official, "has a tremendous relationship" with Netanyahu and is looking forward to meeting with him.

Netanyahu is also suspected of seeking favourable media coverage from a publisher in exchange for weakening competing newspaper, a separate charge from Tuesday's allegations regarding Bezeq.

The police's bombshell February 13 announcement, declaring that investigators are recommending charging the prime minister with two counts of bribery, kicked off a legal process that will take months to fully unfold.

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