Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes reportedly presented police with extensive “written and recorded” documentation that is said to show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively runs the Sheldon Adelson-owned Israel Hayom daily.
According to a report by Channel 2 on Saturday night, Mozes who has been questioned by police under caution six times to date as part of an ongoing graft probe has provided evidence linking the prime minister to the free newspaper.
The TV report displayed pictures of Mozes dragging a suitcase to his questioning.
In the suitcase, the report said, was “written and recorded” testimony showing Netanyahu operating the newspaper “as editor and owner.” The ramifications of the findings, if corroborated, is that the paper would constitute “a personal and political donation to Netanyahu” by the Las Vegas-based casino mogul, the TV report said.
Amos Regev, the editor of Israel Hayom, has also been questioned by police in the affair, known as Case 2000.
On Friday, the TV channel said that the prime minister held five years of discussions with Mozes, and that the case against Netanyahu was becoming increasingly serious.
Mozes and Netanyahu are suspected of hatching a deal under which the prime minister would advance legislation that would reduce the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily’s circulation in exchange for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. No such deal was implemented.
The prime minister has consistently denied having any influence over Israel Hayom. In an affidavit submitted to Israel’s Central Elections Committee in February 2015, Netanyahu said he “does not have, and has never had, any ties of control or any other organizational ties, in any form, with Israel Hayom, or with newspaper staff or journalists writing for it, that would influence the paper’s editorial considerations or its contents.”
On Friday, detectives from the Israel Police anti-corruption unit arrived at Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office to question him as part of two ongoing investigations into alleged graft for the third time.
Friday’s interrogation session with officers from the Lahav 433 unit revolved around two criminal cases: Netanyahu and his family’s dealings with billionaire benefactors, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — known as Case 1000; and his negotiations for the suspected quid pro quo deal with Mozes.
Netanyahu has been largely defiant in the face of the investigations, of which there are two more. In Case 3000 the so-called submarine affair Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron is suspected of swaying multi-billion shekel deals in favor of German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp, which he represented in Israel. Police are considering investigating Netanyahu as a criminal suspect.
There are no known details of the fourth affair, known as Case 4000.
Netanyahu on Saturday denied the latest in a series of leaked allegations against him as “lies and exaggerations” and repeated his claim that they were being orchestrated by opponents who want to carry out a “coup.”
“We are witnessing a flood of leaked lies and exaggerations, whose purpose is to discredit the prime minister and his family and to carry out a coup by changing governments without an election,” Netanyahu said in a statement to the Hebrew language Walla news site.