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Fraud, bribery, breach of trust: The cases against Netanyahu

From gifts of champagne and cigars to allegedly negotiating favourable press coverage, MEE takes a look at the charges plaguing Israel's prime minister
A woman walks past a banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the words 'Crime Minister' outside the Justice Ministry (Reuters)

Benjamin Netanyahu made history on Thursday as he became the first Israeli prime minister to be indicted while in office, charged on three counts of corruption.

Netanyahu, Israel's dominant political figure for a generation, called the charges of breach of trust, fraud and bribery "false accusations" that were "politically motivated".

The premier could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if he is found guilty of bribery. He could face three years in prison for fraud and breach of trust.

Middle East Eye takes a look at the cases plaguing the prime minister:

Case 4,000: The Bezeq affair

In the most serious investigation, known as Case 4,000, police allege that the owners of Bezeq Israel Telecom provided favourable coverage of Netanyahu and his wife Sara on a news website they controlled in return for favours from communications regulators.

Netanyahu is alleged to have given Bezeq regulatory favours worth $500m. He denies any wrongdoing.

The headquarters of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp Ltd, the country's largest telecom group, in Tel Aviv (Reuters)

The prime minister has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in this case.

Bezeq's former chairman, Shaul Elovitch, and his wife, Iris, have been charged with bribery and obstruction of justice. They also deny wrongdoing.

Case 1,000: The gifts affair

Started in late 2016, in the investigation known as Case 1,000, Netanyahu and his wife Sara are accused of wrongfully receiving around $200,000 worth of gifts.

Received from Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen, and Australian businessman James Packer, the gifts are said to have included champagne, cigars and jewellery.

Netanyahu's lawyers say the gifts were simply tokens of friendship.

According to the indictment, the prime minister used his position to to help Milchan with his business interests.

"With these actions the defendant Netanyahu carried out acts of breach of trust that gravely hurt public trust and clean conduct," the indictment said.

The premier has been charged with fraud and breach of trust.

Case 2,000: The Yedioth Ahronoth affair

In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is alleged to have attempted a deal with the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's biggest-selling newspaper, for better coverage.

Prosecutors say the prime minister offered Arnon Mozes legislation that would have hit the circulation of the paper's main rival.

A man reads the Israeli daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, June 2013 (AFP)

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust, while Mozes has been charged with offering a bribe. Both deny wrongdoing.

"By using his stature and power of office in order to receive favours and by being the most senior publicly elected official, he conveyed a message according to which offers of bribery are a means that can be used in order to further the mutual interests of senior public officials and business people and that there is nothing wrong with bribery," the indictment said.