Posts Tagged ‘fraud’

Former Goldman Banker Is in Plea Talks Over Malaysian 1MDB Scandal

July 10, 2018

Discussions between Tim Leissner, U.S. prosecutors bring probe closer to Wall Street firm

Former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner attending a movie screening in March
Former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner attending a movie screening in March PHOTO: RODIN ECKENROTH/GETTY IMAGES

A former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker is in talks with U.S. prosecutors to potentially plead guilty to criminal charges stemming from an alleged scheme to steal billions of dollars from a Malaysian state investment fund, people familiar with the matter said.

The talks bring the fast-moving investigation closer to Goldman, which raised billions for the Malaysian fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd, and come after the arrest of Malaysia’s former prime minister, who founded the fund and lost his re-election bid earlier this year.

The onetime Goldman partner and Southeast Asia chairman, Tim Leissner, who hasn’t been charged, is seeking an agreement with prosecutors that would involve his cooperation with the government’s criminal-fraud probe into 1MDB and Goldman, the people said.

One potential charge Mr. Leissner could ultimately plead guilty to would be a violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans the use of bribes to foreign officials to get or keep business, according to some of the people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors would have to corroborate any information he might provide and determine its usefulness to the overall investigation before agreeing to a plea, legal experts say.

Investigators have said 1MDB was used by former Prime Minister Najib Razak as a political slush fund and by associates of his to buy real estate, art and other luxuries from London to Beverly Hills, Calif. The U.S. Justice Department alleges in civil lawsuits that $4.5 billion was taken from the fund.

​Mr. Leissner, a German national married to an American fashion designer, was Goldman’s top banker on the fund. In that role, he forged a close relationship with Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman who prosecutors allege is the mastermind of the purported fraud, which would be one of the biggest in history. ​

Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn also are investigating whether Goldman, which earned nearly $600 million from its role in arranging a series of bond sales for 1MDB, violated any laws, some of the people said. Billions of dollars raised through the bond offerings were almost immediately routed to bank accounts connected to figures in the probe, including Messrs. Low and Najib, investigators have said.

Mr. Najib was charged in court with three counts of criminal breach of trust. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has denied any wrongdoing at 1MDB. The former prime minister had previously been cleared by the country’s previous attorney general.

In addition to Mr. Najib’s arrest last week, Malaysia also has issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Low, who is believed to be in China.

Mr. Low hasn’t been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Low and his lawyers declined to comment. The U.S. and Malaysia are both investigating Mr. Low, The Wall Street Journal has reported, but it is unclear if he will be charged or which country’s authorities might do so.

“Since we suspended Mr. Leissner, we have discovered that certain activities he undertook were deliberately hidden from the firm, which we have brought to the attention of the relevant authorities,” a Goldman spokesman said. A lawyer for Mr. Leissner declined to comment on the bank’s statement. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn and a spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment.

Related image

Tim Leissner in happier times

Starting in Malaysia, a scandal involving the 1MDB fund set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak now involves at least 10 countries, including the U.S. This animation shows how money allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB moved through global wealth centers before being used to buy real estate, art, and other assets around the world, including in New York and Beverly Hills. Illustration: Oliver Osborne for The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. investigators have sought to determine whether Goldman had reason to suspect that money it helped 1MDB raise was misused and, if so, whether the bank was obligated to report any concerns to authorities, the Journal has reported. The Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission and New York state’s Department of Financial Services also are examining some of the bank’s actions, as are Singapore authorities, the Journal has reported.

Goldman’s big profits on the bond offerings, and their timing—one closed mere weeks before Malaysia’s 2013 presidential election—raised eyebrows throughout Wall Street. Some of the money raised in the offerings, investigators have said, was used to help fund Mr. Najib’s campaign, the Journal has reported.

Goldman has said it did nothing wrong and had no way of knowing there might be fraud surrounding 1MDB. The bank has said its main role was raising money it thought would be used for the stated purposes. Goldman had repeatedly denied Mr. Low’s request to open personal accounts at the firm.

Still, no one flagged the 1MDB transactions to regulators, the Journal has reported. “We have found no evidence showing any involvement by Jho Low in the 1MDB bond transactions,” the firm has said previously.

Mr. Leissner met Mr. Low in 2009. That year, Goldman became an adviser to the oil wealth fund. The fund evolved into 1MDB when the prime minister gave it the broader goal of spurring economic development.

Goldman advised 1MDB on two 2012 bond sales, raising $3.5 billion. A third offering, also underwritten by Goldman, raised an additional $3 billion in 2013.

Mr. Leissner was suspended from Goldman in early 2016 and later quit the firm after it discovered he had written an unauthorized letter to a Luxembourg bank vouching for Mr. Low. The letter said Goldman had done due diligence on Mr. Low and found no issues.

Singapore’s Monetary Authority cited the letter in barring Mr. Leissner from doing business in the city-state for a decade. His attorney, Marc S. Harris, said in late 2016: “Throughout his professional life, Mr. Leissner has conducted himself with integrity, dedication and with high ethical standards and we believe the various ongoing investigations will support these facts.”

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a U.S. industry body, banned Mr. Leissner from the securities industry last fall after the former banker didn’t respond to requests for documents and other information stemming from his departure from Goldman. Mr. Leissner’s attorney had declined to comment on the ban.

Write to Justin Baer at, Bradley Hope at and Nicole Hong at

Appeared in the July 10, 2018, print edition as ‘Ex-Goldman Banker In Talks on 1MDB Plea.’


Nissan admits falsifying emissions data on cars made in Japan

July 9, 2018

Nissan admitted Monday that data on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had been deliberately “altered”, dealing a blow to the Japanese car giant’s efforts to recover from an inspection scandal last year.

The company did not say how many cars were affected by the falsifications, which were uncovered during voluntary tests of all parts of Nissan’s operations conducted in the wake of last year’s scandal.

© AFP | Nissan said tests on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had ‘deviated from the prescribed testing environment’

It said that tests on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had “deviated from the prescribed testing environment”.

In addition, it said inspection reports had been drawn up “based on altered measurement values”.

Nissan’s share price dropped 4.56 percent to 1,003.5 yen after it said it would make a statement on exhaust measurements following a report of falsification.

The firm vowed a “full and comprehensive investigation” into its latest fake data scandal.



Food stamp enrollment falls to 8-year low as Trump clamps down on fraud, economy improves

June 20, 2018

Overall enrollment in the country’s food stamp program has dropped to its lowest level in more than eight years as the economy continues to improve and the Trump administration attempts to tackle fraud in the program.

According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), enrollment in the program dropped in March to 40,083,954. The last time food stamp participation dipped this low was in February 2010, when 39,588,993 people were enrolled in the program.

“As the economy continues to improve, participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is declining,” a USDA official who asked for anonymity told Fox News. “SNAP was established as a temporary supplemental nutrition benefit guiding people to self-sufficiency and self-reliance, not a permanent way of life.”

The USDA official noted that much like jobless numbers, the number of enrollees in SNAP tends to fluctuate month by month. But the official added that the agency expects about 8.8 million to leave the program in the next 10 years.

SNAP, which was formerly known as the Food Stamps Program, is a federal program that provides grocery assistance for people out of work or with low incomes living in the U.S. To qualify for the program, individuals must make 130 percent or less of the federal poverty level based on the household size.

The program is meant to help people buy nutritional items like breads, vegetables, dairy products and meats, while barring them from purchasing alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and household supplies and paper products among other items.

While overall food stamp enrollment has been on a steady decline since 2013, some observers credit President Trump’s emphasis on getting more Americans back to work and his administration’s crackdown on fraud in the SNAP program as the reason why the decline has sped up.

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10:  Kethia Dorelus a social worker with the Cooperative Feeding Program displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food on February 10, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Recent statistics show that nationwide, one in seven Americans receives help from the Federal government with buying food. The food stamp program was used by 43.6 million people in November 2010. Before the recession, the program was serving 26 million.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

 (2011 Getty Images)

“It’s a long time coming,” Robert Doar, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News. “These numbers are dropping because people are going back to work.”

Since Trump took office, more than 2.2 million have discontinued their participation in the SNAP program in large part due to his administration’s moves to reform SNAP.

Trump in February proposed a 30 percent, or $214 billion, cut to SNAP as part of the White House’s federal budget proposal.

In April, Trump signed an executive order aiming to harden up work requirements for welfare and public assistance programs. The order, which aims to reduce poverty “by promoting opportunity and economic mobility,” calls for agencies to strengthen work requirements and to look for new ones.

“They have to stop playing to the cheap seats.”

– Rep. Jim McGovern

“The Federal Government should do everything within its authority to empower individuals by providing opportunities for work, including by investing in Federal programs that are effective at moving people into the workforce and out of poverty,” the executive order stated. “It must examine Federal policies and programs to ensure that they are consistent with principles that are central to the American spirit — work, free enterprise and safeguarding human and economic resources.”

Following Trump’s order, the House Agriculture Committee voted to tighten the already existing work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), while expanding funding for state training programs. The legislation passed Wednesday by the committee would require all “work capable adults” between the age of 18 and 59 to work or participate in work training for 20 hours per week. The tweak means a greater number of people would have to work or enroll in work training.

The USDA in March also announced that it had hired an “integrity officer” who would monitor any instances of fraud in the SNAP program and, in February, Trump announced the rollout of the so-called “Harvest Box” program – an initiative to give food stamp recipients a box of “shelf-stable” foods along with the SNAP allotment.

“The Harvest Box is a silly idea and probably not going anywhere,” Doar said. “But the integrity office is a good step to take…It helps make sure that the program is not only about getting the benefits, but also making sure people are getting back to work.”

The moves by the Trump administration to clamp down on who can receive food stamps has drawn a strong rebuke from numerous Democrats and advocacy groups that work with low-income people and families. Many argue that Trump is manipulating the view of who receives food stamps and that SNAP already had work requirements built into the program

Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern told the New York Times in February that Trump was painting a “distorted picture” of those who receive food stamps by saying that they are scamming SNAP and avoiding work.

“They have to stop playing to the cheap seats,” he said. “The majority of people in the program are children and seniors and people working in jobs that pay too little to feed their families.”

AIDS patients sue Gambia’s ex-president Jammeh over fake cures

June 1, 2018

Three people living with AIDS in Gambia are suing former president Yahya Jammeh, alleging he detained and abused them as guinea pigs to test his supposed cure, one of their lawyers said.

“My clients are claiming damages for false imprisonment and (declaring) that the defendant subjected the plaintiffs to inhumane and degrading treatment contrary to the constitution” while they underwent Jammeh’s alleged HIV/AIDS cure, lawyer Combeh Gaye told AFP shortly after filing the suit on Thursday.

© AFP/File | Family members who lost loved ones to repression during Yahya Jammeh’s two-decade rule in Gambia hold a protest in April 2018

Jammeh, who has lived in Equatorial Guinea since January 2017 when armed intervention helped end his tough 22-year rule, claimed to possess a range of mystical gifts, including the power to cure asthma, epilepsy and sterility as well as AIDS, using plants and chants.

Image result for Yahya Jammeh, photos

Yahya Jammeh

The AIDS patients who have gone to court are two men of 63 and 64 years old and a woman of 51. They are members of associations that support people living with HIV/AIDS, according to the text of their suit seen by AFP.

Shortly after Jammeh in January 2007 publicly announced his “discovery” of an AIDS cure, the three plaintiffs and six other people, including a minor, were invited to meet the president at State House and became his “first batch” of experimental subjects.

In their court case, they testified that top among Jammeh’s “rules was that the members of the group should immediately desist from using any anti-retroviral drugs and/or any other form of conventional medication” given to people with HIV/AIDS.

Jammeh kept the patients locked up during some six months of treatment until July 2007, brushing aside their objections to being filmed during the alleged therapeutic sessions. They later learned that videos had been broadcast on state media, including official GRTS television, the three plaintiffs said.

Despite the ineffective and painful nature of the supposed remedy, the first batch of subjects backed up Jammeh’s claim to have cured them when they were discharged. The court case specifies that they “were compelled by fear and threats from the defendant’s agents”.

Then health minister Tamsir Mbowe joined Jammeh in “false and misleading claims”, encouraging “numerous” other people with HIV actively to seek magical treatment, the plaintiffs argue.

A Muslim onetime soldier, Jammeh seized power in a bloodless 1994 coup in the former British colony, a small enclave of a nation inside Senegal either side of the Gambia river and with an Atlantic seaboard.

From 1996, the increasingly erratic leader won successive presidential elections until he was beaten by opposition candidate Adama Barrow in December 2016, agreed to step down and then changed his mind.

After a six-week political crisis, Jammeh left the country on January 21, 2017, in the wake of military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States and a final mediation bid.

India: Famous ‘godman’ convicted of rape and sexual assault — Preached “materialism inevitably brings sorrow and misery”

April 25, 2018

Began as a bootlegger and ended up owning a billion dollar crore business empire, with 20 million followers, has his own line of medicines and beauty-aids…

Can’t cure cancer but can cure virginity…

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Not long ago, self-styled godman Asaram, convicted in a rape and sexual assault case on Wednesday, was a powerful preacher with 20 million followers, running 425 ashrams and 50 gurukuls in a dozen countries and presiding over a financially secure crore business empire.

Born in what is now Pakistan’s Sindh province in 1941, his family moved to Gujarat after Partition and settled in Ahmedabad’s middle and lower middle class Maninagar area.

Sometime in the 1960s, Asumal Harpalani became Asaram and set up a small ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati in the Motera area of Ahmedabad.

The spotless white dhoti and kurta, and a snow-white beard to match, made him look the part and that combined with a growing list of quotable quotes including life tips — on everything from marital bliss to cures for cancer — and ashrams selling all sorts of consumer products like soaps, shampoos and ayurvedic medicines, helped him sustain the air of godliness and win more and more followers every day as his stature grew.

Massive following

In Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, where most of his ashrams and gurukuls were set up, he created a massive following, mainly among tribals, the Backward Communities and Sindhis.

However, for 79-year-old Asaram, who transitioned from Asumal Harpalani to Asaram, allegations of criminality and controversies were nothing new as he reportedly started as a liquor bootlegger in “dry” Gujarat.

Though he preached that “morality cannot survive in the absence of spirituality and materialism inevitably brings sorrow and misery”, he developed a taste for the good and lavish life.

Soon, as the number of ashrams rose and the follower base grew, so did his desires for material life.

He got a fleet of luxurious cars but preferred to travel by Mercedes or BMW, hired choppers to fly from one ashram to another and enjoyed VVIP status at airports, avoided getting frisked and used to be taken to aircraft in special convoys often escorted by police.


Ayurvedic medicine (“Ayurveda” for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India. It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit.



The great thing about Bitcoin in Nigeria…

March 28, 2018

I am wary of any opportunity to make easy money in Nigeria, as experiences have taught us to avoid get-rich-quick schemes, or face the ultimate certainty of losing your investment and profit. Schemes like MMM, Diamond Cash Club etc. lured Nigerians into investing by promising to generate huge returns without any justification or reason for the perceived boom until the burst of the Ponzi scheme.

Similarly, Bitcoin has experienced a boom in Nigeria but unlike Ponzi schemes, Bitcoins are still in use and accepted.

The creation of Bitcoin by the originating community was in response to the 2008 financial crisis and the principle behind this action was a strong libertarian and anti-establishment spin; in many ways this was similar to the open-source culture, with strong anti-commercial values.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and closeup

In Nigeria, Bitcoin adoption was in response to the 2016 financial crisis, which limited international trading due to the insufficiency of foreign currencies. The common factor for Bitcoins in both Nigeria and the USA is the isolation from financial crisis and that it serves as a great medium for exchange during these times.

The implication of this trend is that while currencies are at the risk of government interferences, Bitcoin does not follow this trend. Thus during financial instability Bitcoin becomes more viable in the country. In Nigeria, Bitcoin primarily serves as an alternative investment opportunity that is not under the influence of any economic pressures or uncertainty.

The great thing about Bitcoin in Nigeria is that it is easily accessible and with the use of a debit card or bank transfers, users can easily purchase or sell Bitcoins at their convenience. For more information, visit Luno for details.

Read more at:

And Boko Haram is just a peaceful people of the woods….

Playboy Deactivates Its Facebook Accounts — “FB Has Just Gotten Too Sinful” — Zuckerberg “Exposed” Is Not Pleasing Anyone — It’s About Privacy

March 28, 2018

Publisher cites ‘mismanagement’ of user data in Cambridge Analytica controversy

Playboy Enterprises, which publishes Playboy magazine, is unfriending Facebook amid the Cambridge Analytica controversy.
Playboy Enterprises, which publishes Playboy magazine, is unfriending Facebook amid the Cambridge Analytica controversy. PHOTO:ASSOCIATED PRESS

Playboy Enterprises Inc., the lifestyle company founded by Hugh Hefner that publishes Playboy magazine, is signing off of Facebook FB -4.90% —at least for now.

“The recent news about Facebook’s alleged mismanagement of users’ data has solidified our decision to suspend our activity on the platform at this time,” the privately held company said Wednesday.

Playboy didn’t immediately say whether it could return to the platform in the future. Facebook Inc. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.”

Playboy said it would deactivate the various Facebook pages it manages. More than 25 million Facebook users have engaged with these accounts, the company said.

Facebook has been under fire after it disclosed that information about tens of millions of its users was sold to data-analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked with the Trump campaign in 2016 and other Republican candidates. The social-media company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is expected to testify before Congress on the company’s handling of data.

The issues have caused some individual Facebook users to leave the platform and advertisers to cut back.

Last week, Facebook announced a series of steps meant to rein in outsiders’ access to Facebook user data.

Playboy, known for sharing racy photos and celebrating sex, said it has had to censor itself over the years to stay within Facebook’s strict content guidelines.

Facebook shares, which have been battered by the Cambridge issue and are down more than 10% over the past week, are down less than 1% premarket Wednesday.

Write to Cara Lombardo at

China opens high-profile trial of troubled Anbang’s boss

March 28, 2018


© AFP/File / by Dan Martin | Anbang is one of four large Chinese firms whose voracious appetite for overseas assets has caught the attention of authorities

SHANGHAI (AFP) – A Shanghai court on Wednesday opened the fraud trial of the former head of troubled Anbang Insurance Group, which the government took over last month in its escalating fight to rein in the spiralling debt of big-spending conglomerates.Former Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui appeared on Wednesday morning in the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate Court, the chamber said on an official social media account.

China last month took over Anbang for a one-year period and had said Wu would face prosecution for “economic crimes” such as fund-raising fraud and other malfeasance.

The court gave no indication of when the trial would conclude, but such proceedings are often wrapped up within a day, especially in sensitive and high-level cases that the government does not want to drag out.

The swoop on Anbang was the most dramatic move yet to rein in politically connected companies whose splashy overseas investments have fuelled fears that they could collapse and trigger contagion in China’s murky financial system.

The government of President Xi Jinping, who has dramatically strengthened his political authority via a pair of recent high-level political meetings, has made cleaning up financial risks in the world’s second-largest economy a key priority.

The highly unusual commandeering of Anbang signalled deep official concern over the Beijing-based company’s financial situation.

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission said earlier that Anbang, which has made a series of high-profile foreign acquisitions in recent years, had violated insurance regulations and operated in a way that may “severely” affect its solvency.

Wu’s situation marks a startling fall from grace for a man who reportedly married a granddaughter of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping — and a signal that the government will move aggressively in its clampdown.

Acquisitive private companies such as Anbang, HNA, Fosun and Wanda have increasingly appeared in the government’s cross-hairs.

The four firms were in the vanguard of an officially-encouraged surge in multi-billion-dollar overseas deals by Chinese firms to snatch up everything from European football clubs to foreign hotel chains and movie studios.

But authorities have become increasingly alarmed by the conglomerates’ influence, their complex webs of subsidiaries and debt, and their capacity to trip up the Chinese economy.

The government has for more than a year implemented a host of ever-tightening measures to stem the flow of money into what it has called “irrational” investments overseas.

Established in 2004, Anbang grew rapidly from a property insurer into a financial services powerhouse, hitting headlines in 2014 when it bought the Waldorf Astoria in New York for $1.95 billion.

Among other acquisitions, in 2015 it bought US insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life for $1.6 billion, Korean insurer Tong Yang Life for around $950 million and Dutch insurer Vivat for about $167 million.

Anbang also made a $14 billion bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, eventually pulling out of a bidding war with Marriott.

It also was in aborted talks with Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner to redevelop a Manhattan office tower, Bloomberg News reported last year.

by Dan Martin

Israel: Could Netanyahu Survive Corruption Scandal? — “Dead man walking” — Three possible outcomes….

February 22, 2018


Despite the media describing him as a lame duck, the Israeli PM still has several options as he deals with the avalanche of corruption allegations against him

.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of an ER in Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of an ER in Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon.\ Ilan Assayag

At first, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked as if he might ride out the corruption storm raging around him (at least temporarily). After the police recommendations last Tuesday that he be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two of the corruption cases involving him, he initially stood strong, issuing a defiant statement.

Politically, he maintained strong support within his Likud party, with no one daring to even speculate on who might take over in a post-Netanyahu world. Similarly, his key governing coalition partners said they would adopt a wait-and-see approach, committing to stand by him at least until the attorney general made his final decision on whether the prime minister would face criminal charges.

But the cards were reshuffled Tuesday with two bombshells: the first, that a confidant (aka henchman) of Netanyahu’s was suspected of offering the job of attorney general to a former judge, in exchange for her killing a case against the premier’s wife, Sara Netanyahu.

But potentially more significant was the news that Shlomo Filber, the former director general of the Communications Ministry, had turned state’s evidence and would share what is presumed to be highly damaging testimony regarding Netanyahu’s role in what is known as Case 4000. This case involves the Israeli telecom giant Bezeq, whose controlling shareholder is Netanyahu’s friend Shaul Elovitch.

If Filber testifies that Netanyahu directed him to make decisions benefiting Bezeq, and acknowledges that the positive news coverage of the Netanyahu family on a Bezeq-owned news site was a quid pro quo – many pundits are saying the bribery case against Netanyahu appears to be open-and-shut.

What happens to Netanyahu now? 3 possible scenarios
Ofer Vaknin
Netanyahu has been declared, depending on the preferred metaphor of any given TV talking head, a “dead man walking” or a “lame duck” – officially running the country, but drained of any real authority.

The atmosphere is reminiscent of the United States during the Watergate era (1973-74), with every day bringing new revelations. So what are the possibilities facing the prime minister moving forward?

Netanyahu government falls: New elections are held

The most dramatic scenario would occur if one or more of Netanyahu’s coalition partners – possibly one of the parties headed by a leader who aspires to replace him in the Prime Minister’s Office – decides to quit the government.

If none of the parties currently in the opposition steps up to replace them and save the coalition – and that seems highly unlikely given the current circumstances – the government would officially dissolve. New elections would be called as soon as possible, presumably in the spring or early summer.

Several political parties are already scrambling in preparation for this eventuality. Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay – whose party is currently the second largest in the Knesset – sent a letter to party members on Tuesday, declaring that “the Netanyahu era is over. We must prepare for an election soon.”

Netanyahu steps down but Likud-led government remains

If Netanyahu’s grip on Likud slips far enough, and coalition parties are sufficiently reluctant to give up their positions of power, a deal could be struck between these parties and Likud – with or without Netanyahu’s participation. In such a scenario, Netanyahu would step down from the Likud leadership but the Likud-led coalition would remain in place, with the same parties heading the same ministries and a new prime minister chosen from within Likud.

The move could be framed as either permanent or temporary – an idea to which Netanyahu might be more amenable. Interestingly, while this solution has not been publicly discussed by any members of the coalition, it has been floated by prominent opposition leaders. Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid (who provided key testimony in one of the cases against Netanyahu) has proposed that Netanyahu take a “leave of absence” and “step aside” until the situation is resolved, even if there are no plans for new elections.

Netanyahu hangs on

Some of the party leaders in Netanyahu’s coalition have ridden out their own corruption scandals – ministers like Avigdor Lieberman and Arye Dery. This could make them sympathetic enough to maintain a “wait and see” approach, even in the face of the ever-widening and worsening list of suspicions and accusations against Netanyahu.

They are also very comfortable with their jobs heading powerful ministries, and it’s far from certain whether a new Knesset election would grant them the level of support needed to keep them there. For example, in the most recent poll about how the public would vote if an election were held tomorrow, Dery’s Shas party would not even garner enough votes to gain Knesset representation.

Another volatile factor that might keep the current government in place is the fragile security situation.

Any major military conflict – on the northern front with Lebanon and Syria, or in the Gaza Strip with Hamas – could push elected officials and the general public to “circle the national wagons,” and put political divisions aside in order to project a stronger and more stable image to Israel’s enemies.

Within Likud itself, Netanyahu has worked hard for years to make sure he has no natural successor. There is no figure within the party perceived as being able to fill his shoes.

More importantly, he has a powerful base of party loyalists who believe he is such a strong and effective figure that they are prepared to overlook any alleged personal foibles – be they cigars and champagne, or favors to wealthy media barons in exchange for positive coverage for his family.

Much like the acquiescence of the Republican Party to Donald Trump, potential aspirants to the Likud leadership are afraid that a direct attack on Netanyahu will alienate that loyal base and harm their own political futures. For that reason, they would prefer to see prosecutors and judges bring Netanyahu down than do it themselves.

As long as that fear persists, Netanyahu has a chance of holding onto power by his fingernails – as the nation watches and waits for his fate to be decided by the judiciary.

Netanyahu says government ‘stable’ after police recommend his indictment

February 14, 2018


© AFP | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government remains “stable”, on February 14, 2018. a day after police recommended his indictment for corruption, prompting calls for him to resign
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday his government was “stable” and criticised the police investigation against him after detectives recommended his indictment for corruption, prompting calls for him to resign.”I can reassure you that the coalition is stable,” Netanyahu said at an event in Tel Aviv, again making clear he had no intention of resigning.

“Neither me nor anyone else has plans for elections. We’re going to continue to work together for the good of Israeli citizens until the end of the term.”

Netanyahu, prime minister for a total of nearly 12 years, denounced the police recommendations against him as “full of holes, like Swiss cheese.”

He said the police report “misleads” and is “contrary to the truth and logic.”

Netanyahu is facing the biggest challenge to his long tenure in office after police recommended on Tuesday that he be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust.

The attorney general must now decide how to move forward with the case, a process that could take months.

A prime minister facing such police recommendations or who has been formally charged is not obliged to resign.