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Netanyahu’s former aide to testify against him in graft case

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 30, 2017. (AMIR COHEN / AP)
Associated Press

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and onetime close confidant has agreed to testify in two ongoing corruption cases against him, Israeli police said Friday.

Police have been investigating Netanyahu for several months over the cases but have released sparse details. On Thursday night it revealed that the cases involving Netanyahu deal with bribery, fraud and breach of trust crimes.

Netanyahu’s office has repeatedly denied wrongdoing over the investigations, portraying the accusations as a witch hunt against him and his family by a hostile media opposed to his hard-line political views.

The police statement Friday says that Ari Harrow will serve six months of community service and pay a fine of 700,000 Shekels (about $193,000) for his involvement in a separate corruption case, apparently a lighter-than-expected sentence in exchange for his testimony.

One investigation involving Netanyahu dubbed by police as “File 1000,” reportedly concerns claims he improperly accepted lavish gifts from wealthy supporters, including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

The second investigation, “File 2000,” reportedly concerns Netanyahu’s alleged attempts to strike a deal with publisher Arnon Mozes of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper group to promote legislation to weaken Yediot’s main competitor in exchange for more favorable coverage of Netanyahu by Yediot.

The U.S.-born Harrow has been under investigation for the past two years for fraud and other crimes regarding the sale of his consulting company while working as chief of staff, media reports.

Police reportedly have a copy of a recording made by Harrow of a 2014 conversation between Netanyahu and the publisher.

After eight years in office, in addition to an earlier term in the 1990s, Netanyahu has garnered an image as a cigar-puffing, cognac-drinking socialite who is as comfortable rubbing shoulders with international celebrities as he is making deals in parliament.

Scandals have long dogged the couple over their lavish tastes and opponents have portrayed both as being out of touch with the struggles of average Israelis.