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Benjamin Netanyahu to be questioned by Israeli police for second time in corruption probe

Probe into allegations against Israeli Prime Minister has become a fully-fledged criminal investigation

Rachel Roberts
Wednesday 04 January 2017 21:58 GMT
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied what he calls 'baseless' reports he received gifts from two businessmen
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied what he calls 'baseless' reports he received gifts from two businessmen (Reuters)

Benjamin Netanyahu is to be questioned under caution for a second time by police over allegations of corruption.

The Israeli Prime Minister will reportedly be questioned on Friday morning by Israeli police, with no time limit on how long he can be interrogated for as the so-called graft inquiry continues.

Mr Netanyahu, who has been Prime Minster since 2009, has strenuously denied what he calls “baseless” reports he received a string of "inappropriate" gifts from two businessmen.

Netanyahu blames Palestinians for lack of peace in Israel

He posted messages on Facebook and Twitter after being questioned for the first time on Monday, saying that “long years of persecution against me and my family turned out yesterday to be nothing.”

Speaking at a meeting with his party, Likud, on Monday afternoon, Mr Netanyahu said: “We've been paying attention to reports in the media, we are hearing the celebratory mood and the atmosphere in the television studios and the corridors of the opposition, and I would like to tell them, stop with the celebrations, don't rush,” he said.

“There won't be anything because there is nothing.”

But on Monday evening, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit issued a statement on the allegations, confirming the probe into Mr Netanyahu’s dealings has become a fully-fledged criminal investigation and that the Prime Minister has been accused of ethics breaches.

Israel's Channel 2 television reported Mr Netanyahu accepted “favours” from businessmen in Israel and abroad, and is the central suspect in a second investigation that also involves family members.

Haaretz said investigators are looking into allegations Mr Netanyahu accepted £850,000 from Arnaud Mimran, a French businessman currently serving eight years in prison for committing a huge carbon-tax fraud.

During his trial, Mimran claimed to have donated the money to Mr Netanyahu during the 2009 Israeli election campaign - something the politician has consistently denied.

Channel 10 also reported Mr Netanyahu's oldest son, Yair, accepted free trips and other gifts from Australian billionaire James Packer.

Israel’s Justice Ministry and police have declined to comment on the media reports, and details of the Graft inquiry remain murky.

Previous inquiries stretching over Mr Netanyahu’s more than two decades in public life have examined his family trips and expenses without resulting in charges.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayalet Shaked this week appeared to give her backing to a bill that would grant sitting premiers immunity from certain types of criminal prosecutions.

The bill, proposed by politician David Amsalem from the ruling coalition Likud party, would amend the law to stop police from investigating a sitting prime minister for fraud, bribery and breach of trust, The Times of Israel website reported.

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