(Bloomberg) -- Israeli police recommended Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stand trial on bribery charges for allegedly trading regulatory benefits for favorable media coverage.
It is the third corruption case in which police have recommended the prime minister be indicted over his dealings with powerful businessmen. The decision finds Netanyahu at a politically weakened time, with his government’s majority in parliament shrunken to a margin of one seat, and talk of early elections a fixture of the political landscape.
Investigators recommended that Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, be indicted on bribery charges, too. The prime minister denied the couple committed any wrongdoing. “I am sure that in this case, too, the relevant authorities, after examining things, will arrive at the same conclusion -- there was nothing because there is nothing,” he said.
The police recommendations are non-binding. The decision whether to indict falls to Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit, who still hasn’t ruled on the two other corruption cases in which police have already said Netanyahu should be indicted.
According to a police statement, Netanyahu -- at times also functioning as communications minister -- tipped regulatory policy to benefit Israel’s largest telecommunications carrier, Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp. In exchange, Bezeq’s news subsidiary, Walla, gave the prime minister sympathetic treatment, police allege.
Police recommended that Bezeq’s former chairman, Shaul Elovitch, who was forced to step down earlier this year, stand trial for giving bribes. Elovitch’s attorney, Jacques Chen, told the Ynet website that his client denied wrongdoing.
Earlier this year, investigators also recommended that Netanyahu be tried for allegedly taking nearly $300,000 worth of gifts including expensive cigars and champagne from wealthy friends including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. They also said he should be indicted for influence-peddling after discussing a deal with powerful newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to push through legislation that would hurt a rival daily in exchange for good coverage.
Netanyahu has also said he’s innocent in those cases.
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