International

Police grill Netanyahu in alleged graft

Police grill Netanyahu in alleged graft
Benjamin Netanyahu
Jerusalem, Aug 17 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 8/17/2018 12:29:52 PM IST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went through a new round of questioning Friday over one of several graft cases that have threatened to topple him, media reports said. 

Investigators arrived at the premier’s Jerusalem residence in the morning to interview him over allegations of corruption involving local telecoms giant Bezeq and its largest shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, according to Israeli media reports. 

Israeli police and Netanyahu’s office do not confirm that such hearings have taken place until they are over. It would be the 12th time Netanyahu has been questioned in various cases, either as a suspect or a witness. In the Bezeq case, Netanyahu is alleged to have sought favourable coverage from another Elovitch company, the Walla news site, in exchange for government policies that could have benefited the mogul’s interests to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

After a previous round of questioning in July, Netanyahu’s office said there was no such trade-off.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has never made a deal with Elovitch in exchange for supportive coverage,” it said, adding that the Walla site had consistently covered the premier “in a hostile manner.” 

Elovitch was arrested in February along with six other people including Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family.

In addition to the premiership, Netanyahu also held the communications portfolio between November 2014 and February 2017, covering the run-up to the March 2015 elections, when he is alleged to have made the deal with Elovitch.

Netanyahu was interrogated for more than five hours in July, reportedly over the same affair.

In a separate case, his wife Sara was charged in June with misusing state funds to buy catered meals costing USD 100,000 (85,000 euros) by falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the premier’s official residence.

In February, police recommended the premier be indicted in two cases, though the attorney general has yet to decide whether to do so.

Netanyahu, prime minister for around 12 years in total, has maintained his innocence in all of the cases, talking of a “witch hunt” and saying he was determined to stay in his job.

He would not be legally obliged to resign if charged.

So far his coalition partners have stood by him despite the allegations, but the investigations have gradually ratcheted up speculation over whether he will eventually be forced from office.

 

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