Saturday 23 November 2019

Netanyahu quizzed by Israeli police over fraud allegations

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Reuters
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Reuters

Ian Jilheabs Jerusalem

Israeli police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday for the first time in a corruption case that involves the country's largest telecommunications company Bezeq, Israel Radio said.

Along with two other corruption cases, in which Mr Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, the probes pose a serious threat to the four-term prime minister's political survival.

Mr Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in all the cases.

A police spokesman declined comment.

Israel Radio said Mr Netanyahu's wife Sara Netanyahu was providing testimony at the same time, at a police station near Tel Aviv.

The controlling shareholder of Bezeq Telecom, Shaul Elovitch, is currently in police custody, along with a former Netanyahu spokesman. They deny any wrongdoing.

Shlomo Filber, a confidant of Mr Netanyahu and former director general of the Communications Ministry, has also been arrested in connection with the case, and has agreed to turn state's witness, according to Israeli media.

Mr Netanyahu, Israel's dominant political figure for a generation, calls the allegations against him a "witch hunt". He has said he will seek a fifth term in a national election due in late 2019.

He has been in power since 2009 and held office for 12 years in total since 1996.

Police recommended in February that Mr Netanyahu be indicted in two other corruption investigations.

The attorney-general must determine whether to accept the police recommendation to charge him.

The final decision on both cases could take months.

In one, known as Case 1000, he is suspected of bribery over gifts, which police say were worth nearly $300,000 (€243,000), that he received from wealthy businessmen.

The other, Case 2000, involves an alleged plot to win positive coverage in Israel's biggest newspaper by offering to take measures to curtail the circulation of a rival daily.

So far, partners in Mr Netanyahu's governing coalition have stood by him, saying they were awaiting the attorney-general's next moves.

Political analysts say that could change if the investigations against Mr Netanyahu intensify.

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