PM Benjamin Netanyahu visits Jerusalem district police headquarters.
(photo credit: GPO)
A top prosecutor on the Justice Ministry team examining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allegedly illegal receipt of gifts and other alleged crimes told a conference on bribery late Thursday that “there is no such thing as gifts which are too small” to criminally investigate.
Tel Aviv Economic Crimes Division Director Liat Ben- Ari then continued to tell the Israel Bar Association Tel Aviv District audience that “when we are referring to presents worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, it is hard for me to accept that we are talking solely about presents between friends.
“I know that about myself and my friends, none of us receives presents of that value,” Ben-Ari said in response to questions from panel moderators, lawyers Yael Grossman and Ilan Shadi.
The prime minister has already been questioned under caution several times in Case 1000, in which he allegedly received illegal gifts, as well as in Case 2000, in which he was allegedly involved in a form of media bribery.
There have been several reports that the police are leaning toward recommending that Netanyahu be indicted in one or both cases.
But until Thursday night, there was no hint as to whether the prosecution would accept such a police recommendation.
Ben-Ari was careful to state that every bribery and criminal case must be looked at in light of its specific circumstances, but the facts she described in her answer dovetail closely with those reported in the Netanyahu Case 1000.
Although Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has the final word on whether to indict, Ben-Ari was the victorious lead prosecutor against former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Holyland Affair real estate corruption case, and any recommendation from her to indict Netanyahu could be hard for Mandelblit to reject.
A challenge for those wanting Netanyahu to be indicted has been the lack of clear evidence of the quid pro quo needed for bribery charges, in which Netanyahu would receive expensive gifts to officially help those giving him gifts in some way.
Ben-Ari’s comments indicate that on facts similar to Netanyahu’s, she would be ready to indict even without a quid pro quo, on the basis that there is no reasonable explanation for such expensive gifts other than an illegal purpose or violation of a duty concerning a conflict of interest.