Grant Acquitted, Reichberg Convicted

Ex-Cop Acquitted, Businessman Convicted in NYPD Bribery Trial

 

A former NYPD deputy inspector was acquitted on all counts in a bribery scheme trial — but his businessman co-defendant didn’t get off so easily.

A jury on Wednesday acquitted former NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant of all of the charges he faced. Businessman Jeremy Reichberg was convicted on four of five counts he faced.

Grant and Reichberg were facing trial for honest services fraud, bribery and conspiracy charges.

The scheme allegedly involved “the receipt of tens of thousands of dollars in meals, trips, home renovations, and other benefits in exchange for an array of official NYPD actions, including private police escorts, ticket fixing, and assistance in settling private disputes,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said.

New Yorkers React to NYPD Probe Connected to Mayor’s Fundraising Investigation

[NY] New Yorkers React to NYPD Probe Connected to Mayor's Fundraising Investigation
New charges against the NYPD officers are connected to an investigation involving men who have raised money for Mayor De Blasio. It has put the city’s top cop on the defensive and has New Yorkers questioning the Mayor. The I-Team’s Melissa Russo has that part of the story for us. (Published Monday, June 20, 2016)

Grant, along with Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Sgt. David Villanueva, were accused of accepting gifts and favors from influential businessmen in exchange for favorable treatment and official services, including one instance in which the businessmen allegedly pulled strings to get the NYPD to shut down a lane of the Lincoln Tunnel so officers could escort an entrepreneur visiting from another country.

Reichberg and another businessman, Alex Lichtenstein, were also named in a trio of criminal complaints unsealed in 2016.

A fourth officer, Richard Ochetal, pleaded guilty to bribery charges in connection with the probe.

Prosecutors alleged that Harrington and Grant accepted expensive meals, game systems, hotel stays and other benefits in exchange for being “on call” for Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, another businessman who previously pleaded guilty to charges and has been cooperating with federal investigators.

Court papers also alleged that Reichberg and Rechnitz used their connections for a variety of purposes.

According to the criminal complaints, Reichberg and Rechnitz allegedly took Grant, another unnamed detective and others on a private jet to Las Vegas for Super Bowl XLVII. The two businessmen also allegedly arranged for a prostitute to join in on the trip, and the prostitute spent the weekend in Grant’s hotel room.

4 NYPD Officers, 2 Others Charged in Corruption Investigation

[NY] 4 NYPD Officers, 2 Others Charged in Corruption Investigation

Six people, including four NYPD officers, were charged Monday morning in connection with an ongoing federal corruption investigation, law enforcement officials told NBC 4 New York. (Published Monday, June 20, 2016)

Grant also allegedly let the businessmen pay for a hotel in Rome, several home projects and a $3,000 watch. On Christmas in 2014, the complaint alleges that Reichberg and Rechnitz showed up to Grant’s home wearing elf hats and gave his children and wife gifts.

The two businessmen also allegedly recommended that Grant, then the head of the 72nd Precinct, be promoted to the head of the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side in 2014 and were on the phone when Grant’s supervisor told him about the promotion.

In exchange for the gifts, the complaint alleges that Grant regularly provided the pair police escorts and allowed the businessmen and their friends around police barricades. He also helped Reichberg get a gun license in about a third of the time it normally takes.

The charges came amid a widening probe that focused on whether former NYPD supervisors accepted gifts and vacations in exchange for official services like police escorts, fixing tickets or shutting down streets for private events.

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Benny Gantz – Israel Resistance Party, An Honest Chance to Unseat Netanyahu

Benny Gantz

 

BENNY GANTZ – To Our Readers

The following articles are the latest information available in a series of recent articles regarding Benny Gantz, Israel’s best chance of unseating Binyamin Netanyahu. Bibi, as he is affectionately known, stands to be Israel’s longest running Prime Minister if elected again in April of 2019. He has been mired in controversy, not the last of which are the allegations that lead to the toppling of his government. 

Sources close to us in Israel have advised us that in advance of registering his own political party, the Israel Resistance Party, a firm was engaged to try and dig up information on Gantz, which may have included fabricating stories intended to dirty and otherwise clean reputation.

 

Popular Israeli military chief Benny Gantz emerges as potential Netanyahu challenger

JERUSALEM (AP) — A popular former Israeli military chief jumped into the political fray Thursday, announcing he would run for office in the upcoming election and instantly injecting a potent challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lengthy rule.

Retired Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has been polling favorably in recent weeks, emerging as a fresh, exciting face in Israel’s staid political landscape. By officially registering his new party, “Israel Resilience,” Gantz shakes up a snap three-month election campaign that has been widely seen as Netanyahu’s to lose.

Even before officially announcing his candidacy, several polls showed Gantz’s hypothetical party coming in second only to Netanyahu’s ruling Likud in a crowded field of contenders in the April 9 vote. A second-place finish would position Gantz for either a top Cabinet post in a Netanyahu government or to be a high-profile opposition leader.

Gantz has yet to comment publicly on the new party. Though he has yet to lay out his worldview or political platform, he flaunts stellar military credentials — a must in security-centric Israel — and a squeaky-clean image to contrast Netanyahu’s corruption-laden reputation.

Although still short of the kind of widespread support likely needed to become prime minister, Gantz’s candidacy captures a yearning in Israel for a viable alternative to emerge against the long-serving Netanyahu, who has been in office for nearly a decade and is seeking a fourth consecutive term.

With a commanding lead in the polls, and a potential indictment looming against him, Netanyahu called early elections this week, seeking to pre-empt possible corruption charges and return to office to become the longest serving premier in Israeli history.

Police have recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery and breach of trust in three different cases. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at removing him from office.

Israel’s attorney general is now weighing whether to file criminal charges. Analysts say that Netanyahu hopes to win re-election before a decision is made, believing it would be much more difficult for the attorney general to charge a popular, newly elected leader.

Even with Netanyahu’s legal woes, he remains popular in opinion polls, while Israel’s established opposition remains splintered and unable to produce a viable challenger.

Like most retired security officials, Gantz is believed to hold moderate positions toward the Palestinians, which would set him apart from Netanyahu, who has largely ignored the issue while focusing on Iran’s influence in the region. But Gantz has been cagey about voicing his opinions, wary of alienating conservative voters crucial for a political upheaval.

Early opinion polls indicate that Gantz would take away votes from all the major parties and may not tip the scales away from Netanyahu just yet. But the emergence of the tall, telegenic ex-general with salty hair makes things more interesting, as he could spark new alliances with other moderate parties to give the hard-line Likud an honest fight.

“It’s too early to tell, but he definitely strengthens the center-left camp,” said Mina Tzemach, a leading Israeli pollster, whose most recent survey gave Gantz’s new party as many as 16 seats in the 120-seat Parliament. “He projects security and integrity. And the fact that he looks good doesn’t hurt either.”

Gantz, 59, was a paratrooper who rose up the ranks to head special operations units and other various commands before serving as military attache to the United States and ultimately becoming Israel’s 20th military chief between 2011-2015. His term was marked by two wars with Hamas militants in Gaza and a covert air campaign in Syria against Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Since his discharge, he has been aggressively courted by several Israeli political parties, but ultimately decided to go it alone for now as the leader of his own party.

Despite his impressive pedigree, Gantz remains a political unknown, which explains part of his appeal in such a highly partisan climate.

“There seems to be about 20 percent of the public that is fed up with what’s out there. He appeals to those who don’t want Netanyahu but can’t bring themselves to vote for the others either,” said Reuven Hazan, a political science professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “He’s the flavor of the election.”

Israel is no stranger to such would-be saviors. In the 2013 elections, former TV anchor Yair Lapid came out of nowhere with his centrist Yesh Atid party to capture 19 seats and become Israel’s second-largest faction. Last time, in 2015, Moshe Kahlon’s economy-focused Kulanu became the unlikely kingmaker. Both, however, decided to join Netanyahu’s coalition rather than oppose him and their years in the system have taken off some of the shine since then.

To read the remainder of the article, click here.

Netanyahu rival registers his own political party

A leading rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a step toward running in Israeli elections called for April 9. Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, hasn’t declared a run for office yet, but recently he registered his own political party. The Hosen LeYisrael party will be known in English as the Israel Resilience Party. Gantz has not issued any kind of political platform or said what kind of political outlook a party led by him would have. But ex-military leaders like him have proven popular at the polls, and few long-time opposition politicians appear to have emerged from the pack of potential rivals. Several existing parties courted Gantz to run with them in the upcoming election. The center-left Zionist Union – which includes Labor – reported offered him the position of party leader. Gantz, 59, served in the IDF as a career army official. Commanding several units, including special operations units, before serving as the head of Israel’s military from 2011 to 2015.

Israel’s Knesset voted unanimously on Dec. 20 to dissolve and go to early elections. Netanyahu, the subject of corruption investigations, is still expected to be at the top of the Likud ticket. The party will hold its primary in early February.

 

Israelis, If you want a Change, You have About 4 Months to Get Yourselves Organized, Amid Scandal – Snap Polls

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at parliament in this file picture taken on December 19, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at parliament in this file picture taken on December 19, 2018 (AFP Photo/Menahem KAHANA)

Jerusalem (AFP) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a skilled survivor of Israel’s cutthroat politics, is hoping snap elections will help him withstand a potential corruption indictment, analysts say, and polls show he is likely to succeed.

Netanyahu’s government decided on Monday to hold snap elections on April 9, seven months early, as it struggles to pass legislation with only a one-seat majority in parliament.

Israel’s parliament, or Knesset, must still formally vote to dissolve itself and set the election date. A first vote was scheduled for Wednesday.

Failure to agree on a key bill on the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the military like their secular counterparts was the ostensible reason to call elections, but many analysts pointed to Netanyahu’s legal concerns as a decisive factor.

Israel’s state prosecutor Shai Nitzan told a conference last week that he was wrapping up his recommendations on three separate cases of alleged corruption and handing them over to the attorney general.

Israeli media reported that they include a recommendation to indict the prime minister.

Analysts say it seems Netanyahu wants to confront the potential charges with a fresh electoral mandate and is betting the attorney general will not issue his decision before April.

“What made him decide to move up the date of the elections was the speech by Shai Nitzan, who announced that his recommendations were ready,” said Emmanuel Navon, political science professor at Tel Aviv University.

– ‘Prefer to wait’ –

So far, the legal cases against Netanyahu appear to have had little impact on voters, and a poll taken after Monday’s announcement of April elections showed his Likud party would remain by far the largest.

Victory in April would put Netanyahu, the 69-year-old son of a historian who is no doubt mindful of his legacy, on track to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, surpassing founding father David Ben-Gurion.

A decisive win will allow him to ramp up his argument that the investigations are merely the result of a plot by his political enemies to force him from office against the will of the electorate.

He is not required to step down if indicted, and there is little doubt that he would refuse to do so.

Gideon Rahat of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and the Israel Democracy Institute think tank said he does not believe Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit should take the campaign into account in determining when to issue his decision.

But he will surely feel pressure to do so, said Rahat.

“I would say that he would probably prefer to wait until after the elections because he wouldn’t like to be blamed for influencing the elections or for trying to influence the elections,” he said.

With Israel’s centre-left opposition in disarray, Netanyahu’s main electoral threat appears to come from the right and centre.

His reputation as Israel’s “Mr. Security” accounts in large part for his electoral success, but it took a hit over a controversial Gaza ceasefire in November.

That truce led to the resignation of defence minister Avigdor Lieberman and the removal of his party’s five seats from the coalition, seen as the most right-wing in Israel’s history.

– ‘Pyrrhic victory’? –

Netanyahu worked then to hold the coalition together and has managed to do so until now.

There was speculation he wanted to wait to push for polls until anger over the ceasefire calmed.

After Monday’s announcement, Netanyahu faced fresh criticism over his argument in November that it would be irresponsible to go to elections because the country was facing a sensitive security situation.

It was an apparent reference to an upcoming military operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon that was announced earlier this month.

Asked on Monday why now was a better time, Netanyahu said the operation was nearly complete.

Wildcard candidates could still emerge in the electoral campaign and pose a threat to Netanyahu.

Much of the focus was on former military chief of staff Benny Gantz, who polls show could do well, but he has given no word on his intentions.

While Netanyahu may succeed in his election gamble, the legal cases will remain and he will likely have to reckon with them eventually.

He “realised that the sand in the hourglass was running out,” political columnist Ben Caspit wrote in the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

“In my opinion, this might work, but will prove to be a pyrrhic victory. The clock will stop for a few minutes, making it possible for him to run for election, but it will resume ticking again energetically immediately afterwards.”

US Troop Withdrawal from Syria, Corruption, Subsidies for Ultra-Orthodox IDF Draft Dodging and a Government in Peril – Israel

Israel’s Government Collapses Amid Corruption Charges and Trump’s Mideast Chaos

The specific issue that brought down Bibi’s government was subsidies for ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers. Still, he thinks he’ll win at the polls again in April.

Amir Cohen/Reuters

JERUSALEM — In the most expected surprise declaration of 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the dissolution of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and elections to be held in early April.

The move comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump roiled the region with the startling announcement he was immediately withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, and as his long-anticipated plan to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians appears to be have shriveled.

A 2019 electoral campaign was inevitable, in fact. Netanyahu’s four-year mandate runs out in November 2019, but Monday’s unforeseen move became inescapable when Netanyahu was unable to muster the necessary votes to pass a popular law levying heavier fines against orthodox Jewish seminary students who dodge Israel’s otherwise universal draft of 18-years-olds on religious grounds.

Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition members opposed the law, and two opposition parties that had initially hinted at support withdrew it due to fears Netanyahu and his religious political partners had cut a secret deal providing financial compensation to counterbalance fines imposed on draft dodgers.

Elections have been in the air since Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation last month, which left the survival of Netanyahu’s coalition hanging by a single Knesset vote.

Lieberman has since taunted Netanyahu for his “government for survival,” but the prime minister remains the most popular leader in Israel’s rambunctious multi-part political process.

The next three months will see Bibi, as Netanyahu is widely known, confront unprecedented tests, none more challenging than his own precarious legal predicament.

Following police and state attorney recommendations that he be indicted on several corruption charges, senior Israeli jurists say his prosecution appears inevitable.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, an essential partner in any future Netanyahu government, restated on Monday that no minister, and no prime minister, can continue to serve if indicted.

Israel’s Justice Ministry issued a rare statement reassuring the public that its work in sifting through the legal recommendations will continue “as usual” despite the announcement of elections.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a Netanyahu appointee who will make the final determination, said at a conference last week that Israeli law has not yet had to decide whether a sitting prime minister may remain in office if facing legal prosecution.

In recent years, both a president and a prime minister resigned when facing almost certain indictment,. Both eventually served time in prison.

Speaking to a quickly assembled meeting of his parliamentary faction, and ignoring the legal drama, Netanyahu forecast victory in the April vote and said the coalition he currently leads—the most right-wing in Israeli history and one of the most volatile— is “the seed” for his future government.

Listing his administration’s achievements, Netanyahu ignored instability in the financial markets that saw the Tel Aviv stock exchange lose more than 5 percent of its value since U.S. President Donald Trump’s startling decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, where they have provided crucial support for Israeli efforts to contain and halt Iranian entrenchment.

Lauding his government’s “four full years of achievements,” Netanyahu praised Israel as “a growing power, with flourishing diplomatic ties” with continental powerhouse nations such as India, Brazil and Australia, far from Israel’s historic allies.

After extolling ties with “west and east Europe, and central Europe, and Latin America,” Netanyahu extolled Israel’s alliance “with the United States that has never been stronger, with the historic decision made by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

“Israel has the eighth most powerful military on earth,” he boasted to his followers. “It is hard to believe, Israel is not a large country, but serious institutions rank us that high.”

Rampant Corruption and Israel’s Eroding Core Values, Former Spymasters Speak

Ex-Mossad chief: Israel ‘dangerously sick’ under Netanyahu’s leadership

TIMES OF ISRAEL 28.March.2018

Five former spymasters say PM eroding country’s core values, decry ‘pervasive’ culture of corruption under his tenure

 

Top row: Former Mossad chiefs from L to R: Danny Yatom, Tamir Pardo, Zvi Zamir, Shabtai Shavit, Nahum Admoni and Efraim Halevy.  Bottom row: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and President Reuven Rivlin host a candle lighting ceremony for of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the President's residence in Jerusalem on December 18, 2014. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Top row: Former Mossad chiefs from L to R: Danny Yatom, Tamir Pardo, Zvi Zamir, Shabtai Shavit, Nahum Admoni and Efraim Halevy. Bottom row: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and President Reuven Rivlin host a candle lighting ceremony for of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the President’s residence in Jerusalem on December 18, 2014. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Five former chiefs of the Mossad spy agency leveled harsh criticism at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, with one saying that Israel was “dangerously sick” under his leadership.

“I feel so bad about what is happening in the country, the corruption is so deep, so pervasive,” Shabtai Shavit told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in an excerpt of a joint sit down interview ahead of Independence Day. “There are no red lines, no taboos and add to that the deepening rift among the people.”

Shavit was joined by Zvi Zamir, Nahum Admoni, Danny Yatom, Efraim Halevy and Tamir Pardo in expressing serious concerns about Israel’s future.

“As intelligence people, our most important skill is being able to anticipate the future,” Shavit added. “So I ask myself what kind of country will my grandchildren inherit, and I cannot give an answer to that.”

“It’s a problem of values, of divisions,” Pardo said. “We need leadership that is able to navigate between crises at the right places, but unfortunately, that does not exist today.”

Zamir, the oldest of the group at age 93, fired off the sharpest criticism of Netanyahu, saying the prime minister and his powerful cronies were only serving their own interests.

“I’m not sure that for the prime minister and the senior officials surrounding him that public interests prevail over their personal interests of more money and more power,” he said.

“We are dangerously sick,” he said. “Netanyahu may have inherited a country with symptoms, but he has ushered it into a state of malignant disease.”

Yatom echoed Zamir’s sentiment, saying it was unsurprising that Netanyahu and a growing number of his associates are under investigation for corruption, because they put their own interests ahead of the country’s.

Israel, he warned, was “on a downward spiral,” and called on the prime minister to resign.

In his interview, Halevy criticized Netanyahu, saying his “need for headlines and obsession with his public image verses running the country and managing its security matters is problematic.”

“I think something very bad has happened to leadership in Israel,” he added. “There is a major flaw in the political system that everything that isn’t illegal is kosher.”

88-year-old Admoni said his main concern with Israel today is the growing rift between Israelis, asserting the divide between religious and secular populations was “worse than its ever been.”

“The divide just keeps growing,” Admoni lamented.

Nearly all of the former intelligence officials have publicly censured Netanyahu in the past, though the extensive criticism leveled against him in Yedioth on Tuesday was unprecedented.

The full interview with the six former Mossad chiefs will run in Yedioth’s weekend magazine, 7 Days, on Friday.

Netanyahu is embroiled in several corruption scandals and was questioned again by police on Monday in connection with the Bezeq scandal, known as case 4000.

The probe involves suspicions that Netanyahu, who has served as communications minister for several years over his past two terms as premier, advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage of the Netanyahus from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

In addition to Case 4000, Netanyahu is also suspected of wrongdoing in so-called cases 1000 and 2000, in which police have recommended he be indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, allegedly in return for certain benefits.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in all the cases.