JERUSALEM – Israeli police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for about four hours on Sunday over a pair of corruption scandals surrounding the long-ruling Israeli leader.
It was the sixth time police have questioned Netanyahu over the two scandals which have yet to threaten his rule but have chipped away at his public approval ratings. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri confirmed that investigators arrived at Netanyahu’s official residence earlier Sunday.
The first investigation reportedly concerns allegations that Netanyahu improperly accepted lavish gifts from wealthy supporters, including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. A second investigation reportedly concerns Netanyahu’s alleged attempts to strike a deal with publisher Arnon Mozes of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper group to promote legislation to weaken its main competitor in exchange for more favourable coverage.
Netanyahu has been questioned in these cases, and police say they suspect him of being involved in bribery, fraud and breach of trust. One of his closest former aides has become a state’s witness against him.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and called the accusations against him a witch hunt orchestrated by a hostile media.
Another investigation has engulfed his close associates and dominated news in Israel. The probe relates to a possible conflict of interest involving a $2 billion purchase of German submarines. Netanyahu’s personal attorney, who is also his cousin, represented the German firm involved and is suspected of trading his influence over the prime minister in return for a hefty cut of the deal. A former Cabinet minister and top former navy and security officials have been questioned by police. Netanyahu is not a suspect in that probe.