(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's close adviser Nir Hefetz is suspected of having offered the job of attorney-general in 2015 to former judge Hila Gerstl in exchange for a commitment in advance to close the criminal probes against Sara Netanyahu, Hebrew media reported on Tuesday.
Sara Netanyahu was under investigation at the time for a range of alleged offenses in the Prime Minister's Residence Affair.
A statement from police issued Tuesday did not mention Hefetz's or Gerstl's names explicitly, but confirmed that a top jurist who was on the official short list for the attorney-general position had been offered the position by an unnamed suspect as part of a bribery scheme.
According to reports, Hefetz, who was already a close adviser to Netanyahu, approached Gerstl through a close associate of the ex-judge and relayed the offer. The associate then relayed the offer to Gerstl, who rejected it out of hand.
Ultimately, Avichai Mandelblit was appointed attorney-general and took office in February 2016, but the police said that they were cracking down on the attempted bribery scheme in any case to root out any crimes committed. Mandelblit has informed Sara Netanyahu that he plans to indict her, though she is holding pre-indictment hearings with him to try to convince him of her innocence.
The new scandal appears to have come out as part of probing Hefetz's involvement in the Bezeq media affair
, an investigation into whether Netanyahu aids and possibly the prime minister himself, arranged favorable treatment for Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage from the Walla! media outlet. Shaul Elovitch is a lead suspect and owns both Bezeq and Walla.
The police petitioned the court to extend Hefetz's detention even beyond Thursday, which the court had already granted in the Bezeq media affair, in order to question him further about the new affair ,but the judges refused. th epolice said they would appeal the decision to the District Court.
Netanyahu immediately denied any knowledge of Hefetz's offer, calling it a "hallucination" and said that he did not believe Hefetz made such an offer, or would even conceive of doing so.