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Israel questions PM’s billionaire friend over corruption charges

August 30, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Image of billionaire businessman, Len Blavatnik [GCC Business Council/Facebook]

Israeli police are to fly to London today to question billionaire businessman Len Blavatnik in relation to corruption charges facing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Haaretz.

The Soviet-born media investor will primarily be questioned as to whether Netanyahu was involved in the sale of a television channel in 2015 to Arnon Mozes, publisher of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, as part of “Case 2000”. It is alleged that Netanyahu tried to negotiate a deal with Mozes, offering legislation that would impede the activities of Mozes’ rival paper, Israel Hayom, in return for more favourable media coverage of the prime minister and his policies.

Police further suspect that in return for curbing Israel Hayom, Mozes offered to hire journalists recommended by Netanyahu to undermine rival politicians.

Blavatnik is suspected to have also played a part in a proposed deal where he would have bought a stake in Yedioth, although the purchase did not take place.

Read: Israeli court sees possible graft charges in cases involving Netanyahu

However, Blavatnik’s testimony may also prove useful in regards to another corruption case Netanyahu is currently embroiled in, dubbed “Case 1000”, which alleges that the prime minister accepted illegal gifts from businessmen. Police will question whether Netanyahu aided in the sale of Israeli Channel 10 to Blavatnik, and whether this served the interests of minority stakeholder Arnon Milchan, whom it is believed was one of the businessmen who sent the gifts, assumed to be a bribe.

Netanyahu has already been questioned in regards to Case 1000 but if Blavatnik’s testimony confirms police suspicions, the case against him would strengthen.

The prime minister was also recently involved in a third fraud case, as Israeli police continue to investigate a $2 billion deal to buy submarines in which Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and cousin also represented the local agent of the German manufacturer. Netanyahu, who is not under investigation in the case, has given his lawyer his full support.

Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to face criminal investigation; in 2014 former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of breach of trust and bribery. Ariel Sharon was also questioned during his term in office over allegations of bribery and illegal campaign financing.