Aide suspected of trying to bribe judge in investigation of Netanyahu's wife

Aide suspected of trying to bribe judge in investigation of Netanyahu's wife

Israeli police said on Tuesday that two associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were suspected of offering a judge promotion in return for closing a criminal case against the premier's wife.

Netanyahu also released a response statement denying the existence of the deal.

Netanyahu, who was the Communications Minister until 2017, is now not a suspect in this affair, according to the police, but local media widely reported that he is expected to be questioned in the recent days.

The two are suspected of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel's Bezeq telecom company in return for favourable coverage of Netanyahu in a highly popular subsidiary news site.

Netanyahu said the latest suspicions were a continuation of a wider media witch hunt against him and his family.

"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.

Netanyahu rejected the suspicions and said they had no substance.

Former Netanyahu spokesman Nir Hefetz and former Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber, both known as close confidants of the prime minister, were also arrested.

"I never consulted Nir Hefetz on this matter, he never proposed anything to me on this issue, and you know what?"

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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, a family friend of Netanyahu's who controls telecoms firm Bezeq through his Eurocom holding company, was arrested along with his wife, his son and Bezeq's CEO Stella Handler.

Netanyahu not only enjoys the administration's sympathy and its sense of forgiveness, but is also in a position to leverage his warm welcome in the U.S.to help paper over his political troubles at home, where recommendations to indict a sitting prime minister are not viewed lightly.

According to a police leak to Ynet, the prime minister's former spokesman Boaz Stambler, now director of the Government Advertising Bureau (LPM), has already testified regarding the thick ties between the PM's office and Walla regarding the news website's favorable coverage and pressures on Walla's staff to skew their reports. She has denied the allegations and a final decision on charges is pending.

The latest probes come days after police announced that there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.

Netanyahu has not been named in the new probe.

Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In a televised speech a week ago, Netanyahu said he would continue to lead the country "with responsibility, dedication and loyalty". In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan's behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings, and visa arrangements.

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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