Israeli PM charged in corruption cases

Israel’s attorney general has charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases, the justice ministry says.

Mr Netanyahu is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage.

He has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a “witch hunt” by his left-wing opponents and the media.

He has insisted he will not resign and is not legally obliged to do so.

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The cases involved are known as 1,000, 2,000 and 4,000.

It concerns the prime minister’s relationship with two businessmen – Arnon Milchan, an Israeli Hollywood film producer, and James Packer, an Australian billionaire.

Mr Netanyahu is alleged to have “received various high-value benefits, including the frequent and continuous supply of expensive goods, while at the same time undertaking actions favourable to Mr Milchan”, according to the attorney general’s office.

It said the benefits received between 2006 and 2016, mainly cigars and bottles of champagne, were worth 956,800 shekels ($264,100; £199,200).

Mr Netanyahu has insisted they were merely tokens of friendship and that he did not act inappropriately in exchange for them.

Mr Milchan and Mr Packer are not facing any charges, but like the prime minister, they have previously denied any wrongdoing.

The attorney general’s office said this concerns meetings that Mr Netanyahu conducted with Arnon Mozes, a businessman and the controlling shareholder of the Yedioth Ahronoth media group, which publishes a leading Israeli newspaper.

“During these meetings, the two discussed positive changes in the press coverage by Mr Mozes’ media group regarding Mr Netanyahu, and possible action to promote a legislative bill that would have operated to reduce the financial damage created to Mr Mozes’ own newspaper by a rival newspaper, Yisrael Hayom,” the attorney general’s office said. -BBC

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