Ex-Netanyahu spokesman arrested in Israeli corruption probe

Israeli police targeted associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the latest corruption investigation involving the leader and his inner circle Tuesday.

Netanyahu, who held the communications portfolio until a year ago, has not yet been named as a suspect in the case but is expected to be questioned.

Netanyahu on Monday denied any wrongdoing in the case.

"A senior public servant was approached with a proposal to help promote her appointment to the position of attorney general, allegedly in exchange for a future promise by the candidate regarding her future decision in a certain criminal case", the police said in a statement.

A major new spin-off development from the newly revealed Attorney-General Job Affair came out a few hours later on Tuesday afternoon, when it was reported that the police would question Supreme Court President Esther Hayut on Tuesday night.

Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber is a suspect in Case 4000, which involves suspicions Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch gave Netanyahu and his family positive coverage at his Walla news site in exchange for the advancement of policies benefiting the telecommunications giant.

"Nir Hefetz never presented this ludicrous offer to the prime minister and his wife, he was never asked by them to make such an offer and we can't imagine that Hefetz would even imagine such a thing", Netanyahu said.

The arrests were carried out Sunday following a joint investigation between police and the Israel Securities Authority, which had conducted its own probe previous year.

Bezeq Chairman Shaul Elovitch is also in custody, along with his wife, son and other Bezeq executives.

"I never consulted Nir Hefetz on this matter, he never proposed anything to me on this issue, and you know what?"

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves during the opening ceremony for a bomb-proof emergency room in a hospital in Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

Meanwhile Maariv reported that Hefetz's detention has been extended because, according to the paper, he allegedly put pressure on judge Hila Gerstel to close an investigation that was ongoing at the time against Sara Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has denied all charges.

Netanyahu is not now suspected of dispatching Hefetz to extend the offer to the judge, Hadashot TV reported.

Supporters of the premier said Alsheich's interview with Israel's Channel 2 television further weakened the public's trust in the police, perceived by some as attempting to frame Netanyahu.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000).

Netanyahu rejected the suspicions and said they had no substance.

In return, police say Mr Netanyahu had operated on Mr Milchan's behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.

This would not be the first time that Netanyahu has been accused of trying to win good press in corrupt ways, as police believe the premier sought a secret deal for favourable coverage with the publisher of top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot, whose publisher Arnon Moses could also face bribery charges.

Israel's police chief, Roni Alsheikh, said Tuesday that the police recommendations were coordinated with the attorney general and were handled in a professional manner.

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