Israeli prosecutors say they are opening a criminal investigation into the failed start-up of Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s challenger, shaking up what has already been a tumultuous election campaign.
In a statement released on Thursday, Israel‘s justice ministry said Israeli police will conduct the investigation into “Fifth Dimension.”
The statement did not say whether opposition leader Gantz is a suspect.
Gantz’s Blue and White Party is in a tight race with Netanyahu’s Likud. The March 2 vote comes just two weeks before Netanyahu’s corruption trial is to begin.
?? — NEWS: Acting State Prosecutor Dan Eldad is opening a criminal investigation into a failed high-tech startup headed by Blue & White leader Benny Gantz. pic.twitter.com/IfJmWEYyOx
— ®️BELAAZ (@TheBelaaz) February 20, 2020
Gantz denied wrongdoing on Thursday after media reports said an investigation would be launched into an allegedly shady deal between a company he once headed and Israeli police.
Netanyahu was charged last year with bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three cases in which he is accused of receiving lavish gifts from billionaire friends and of exchanging regulatory favors with media moguls for more palatable media coverage of him and his family.
He denies wrongdoing and claims the charges have been trumped up by a hostile justice system, police, and media out to get him.
— Palestine Chronicle (@PalestineChron) February 21, 2020
The reports said Gantz is not a suspect in the affair. But the development comes less than two weeks before national elections and during a campaign by Gantz’ Blue and White party that has tried to focus attention on Netanyahu’s indictment for corruption charges.
“It all sounds like political pressure to get this thing on the public’s agenda,” Gantz told Israel’s Army Radio.
“I am totally at ease. This was checked in the past and no criminal suspicion was found,” he added.
Israel goes to the polls on March 2, the third vote in less than a year after two elections in 2019 ended inconclusively, with neither Netanyahu or Gantz able to forge a coalition government.
(Al Jazeera, PC, Social Media)