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Police question Netanyahus under caution in graft case

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is grilled for the first time on allegations that he provided kickbacks to telecom mogul Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive media coverage.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, leave Israel for Davos. Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, leave Israel for Davos. Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

Police investigators arrived at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on Friday to question Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu under caution on suspicion that he bribed a telecom chief in exchange for positive media coverage.

Netanyahu was grilled for five hours over Case 4000, a corruption investigation revolving around allegations that he helped ease government regulations on Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq in exchange for positive coverage in Walla, Bezeq’s news site subsidiary, in an illicit deal worth a billion shekels ($300 million) with controlling shareholder Shaul Elovich.

Responding to allegations he offered a billion-shekel bribe, Netanyahu remarked before the interrogation that “after they claimed that the prime minister smoked a million shekels worth of cigars, now there’s a new theory: kickbacks worth a billion shekels. But the problem is that every action that was taken was under the guidance of professional recommendations, professional committees and legal consultation.”

“There was no million, no billion and no trillion. There was nothing,” declared Netanyahu.

During the session, he was also likely asked to provide his version of events regarding the controversial purchase of German submarines in Case 3000. This separate corruption investigation, in which Netanyahu has not been named a suspect, is an ongoing criminal investigation into two of Netanyahu’s closest associates: attorneys Isaac Molho and David Shimron.

At the same time, Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, was escorted to the police’s Lahav 433 Major Crimes Unit headquarters in Lod to provide testimony in the case.

When she arrived, however, she was informed that the session was an interrogation under caution as well, not just a collection of testimony, implying that she, too, was a person of interest in the case.

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