With all the news this week on the Mueller grand jury, it's important to remember there's a lot going on in the realm of political scandal outside the US as well. In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro will today convene the first meeting of his 545-member constituent assembly on the way to what will almost assuredly be a full dictatorship. In Brazil, President Michel Temer has narrowly escaped impeachment on corruption charges but his presidency is in tatters. But the big one is in Israel, where PM Benjamin Netanyahu is now facing a major bribery and fraud scandal as his former chief of staff has turned state's evidence against him.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief of staff Ari Harow has reached an agreement with the prosecution to turn state's witness in two corruption cases against Netanyahu.
Under the deal, Harow will be convicted of fraud and breach of trust in a separate case, but will avoid jail time. Instead, he will do community service as pay a 700,000-shekel ($193,000) fine.
The Israel Police confirmed on Thursday that the prime minister is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu's bureau rejected the allegations on Thursday, calling them "unfounded claims."
Harow served for two terms in key positions in the Prime Minister’s Office. In 2009 he was appointed bureau chief, but left after a year to pursue private business interests before coming back in 2014, this time as chief of staff. In between he maintained “friendly contact” with the prime minister, as he attested in the past in an official document.
In 2015, Harow was arrested by the national fraud squad, on suspicions he was continuing to secretly operate a private lobbying and consulting business while he was the premier’s chief of staff. Last year, when the police began to examine matters pertaining to the prime minister, Harow landed in Israel and was immediately taken for questioning under warning, which meant he might be accused of a crime. The moves toward a state’s witness deal began at that time.
And those bribery charges are pretty serious. Netanyahu is in a lot of trouble because Harow was nailed dead to rights on some pretty nasty stuff, and he has flipped on his boss as a result:
The two cases mentioned in the police request are known as Case 1000, which involves Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who was asked to purchase luxury items for Netanyahu and his wife; and Case 2000, in which Netanyahu tried to concoct a deal with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
Harow, who is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, aggravated fraud and money laundering, was also a key figure in a case that the police did not pursue. He headed the American Friends of Likud, which allegedly paid the salary of Odelia Karmon, an adviser to Netanyahu when the prime minister, who heads the Likud party, was opposition leader.
During the investigation of Harow, police confiscated his cell phone, and found recordings documenting the Netanyahu-Mozes conversations that are the basis of the Case 2000 probe. In the Karmon case, the attorney general did not believe that investigators would be able to produce evidence justifying a criminal indictment for alleged offenses that are subject in any event to a 10-year statute of limitations. Senior law enforcement officials believed, however, that the investigation should have been pursued, especially in light of recordings of Karmon that were obtained by police in which she described the sequence of events after she received her salary.
“Bibi became insanely hysterical, all of a sudden. I don’t know who whispered to him, after all, you can light him up like a flame ... and then he said to me: Odelia, give back the money.” In the recording, Karmon also mentioned Harow: “He plied Netanyahu with many things. Flight tickets or whenever Netanyahu was in a bind. But not in exchange for anything. He was honest and sweet. He was simply helpless.”
Harow in other words had the evidence on him to burn Bibi and cashed it in for immunity. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
Bye bye Bibi? We'll see, but it definitely doesn't look good for him.