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Netanyahu's former chief-of-staff turns state's witness in corruption probes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 30, 2017.
AMIR COHEN (AFP)
Agreement comes day after police told court bribery, breach of trust suspected in two cases

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief-of-staff Ari Harow has signed an agreement to turn state's witness in ongoing corruption investigations allegedly involving the prime minister.

In exchange for Harow's testimony, he will avoid serving prison time and instead be sentenced to half a year of community service and likely pay a fine of NIS 700,000 (around $193,323), Hebrew media outlets reported Friday.

The deal comes a day after Israeli police said that they suspect bribery and breach of trust in the two corruption cases involving Netanyahu. They stopped short, however, of saying that the premier was directly suspected of those offenses.

Police imposed a gag order on all news regarding the prime minister's connection to the ongoing investigations.

Netanyahu is currently under investigation in a series of probes involving alleged financial corruption.

In one case, police are examining whether Netanyahu has received illicit gifts from Israeli and foreign businessmen worth hundreds of thousands of shekels ("Case 1000").

A separate case involves an alleged 'quid pro quo' arrangement with Israeli media mogul Arnon "Noni" Mozes that would have provided benefit to Mozes' Yedioth Ahronot newspaper in exchange for more favorable coverage for the premier ("Case 2000").

Harow, who resigned from his post in the Prime Minister's Office in January 2015 in order to work on Netanyahu's election campaign, has been under police investigation since December 2015 on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust. Police has recommended he be indicted on those offenses, but the Attorney General has yet to file formal charges.

Recordings of the 2014 discussion between Netanyahu and Mozes were uncovered by police on Harow's computer during the course of their investigation into the former Netanyahu aide.

Netanyahu responded to the claims in a statement and affirmed that claims against him were false, explaining the case was "doomed to fail because there will be nothing because there was nothing."

Separately, Netanyahu's wife Sara was questioned for two hours on Wednesday at the offices of the national fraud squad, on suspicion that she has used funds from the Prime Minister’s Residence for private chefs and family affairs, and also of drawing from the public purse to pay a live-in caregiver for her father.

The questioning is the fourth time that Mrs. Netanyahu will be probed over the case, which has spanned for more than two years.

The investigations have stirred Israeli politics and led to speculation over whether Netanyahu will eventually be forced to step down as prime minister.

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