Police probe said to check if Sara Netanyahu received gifts
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Police probe said to check if Sara Netanyahu received gifts

Preliminary investigation into Netanyahu includes suspicions foreign businessmen gave his wife ‘expensive presents,’ report says

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara speaking to the press at Ben Gurion International Airport on July 4, 2016, at the start of a trip to Africa. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara speaking to the press at Ben Gurion International Airport on July 4, 2016, at the start of a trip to Africa. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

A preliminary probe into suspected corruption by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will include a police examination into whether his wife, Sara, received expensive gifts from foreign businessmen during trips abroad, Channel 2 reported Tuesday.

According to the report, police suspect that there was a “system” wherein “when Sara Netanyahu came along on the prime minister’s trips, millionaires would make pilgrimages to her, bow to her, and shower her with expensive gifts.”

The matter was already brought before former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein two years ago, and he asked the police to investigate the matter but yielded no concrete evidence at the time, the report said.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit confirmed earlier this month that he had ordered the preliminary probe, but rejected “inaccurate” media reports about the nature of the suspicions.

According to reports, the attorney general is examining suspicions of money laundering involving the prime minister and an unnamed senior Justice Ministry official, among others.

On Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed allegations of criminal wrongdoing against him as “hot air” and “lies” and expressed confidence a preliminary examination ordered by the attorney general would ultimately be closed with no incriminating findings.

Netanyahu slammed all allegations against him as “nonsense” and “lies.”

“In this case as well, there is no fire, there is no smoke, there is only hot air. A lot of hot air,” he said.

“Spoiler alert,” Netanyahu added, “There will be nothing [to come out of the probe], because there is nothing.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Israeli parliament during Question Time, July 18, 2016. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Israeli parliament during Question Time, July 18, 2016. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and fundraiser was summoned for a second interrogation by police on Monday on suspicions of fraud.

There were no details about the interrogation of Ari Harow, the latest chapter in a case which has embroiled Netanyahu but has mostly been kept under wraps.

After an early-morning detention by police upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport on Thursday, Ari Harow was questioned under caution by the Israel Police’s high-profile anti-fraud unit for over 14 hours Thursday before being released to house arrest.

Channel 2 television reported Friday evening that Netanyahu and members of his family are likely to be interrogated under caution by police as they probe corruption allegations against the prime minister.

According to the report, Harow did not take advantage of his right to remain silent on Thursday and cooperated with the police. An employee working at the Prime Minister’s Office was also interrogated last week.

Under the current police assessment, if incriminating material against Harow is found, he may be offered a deal to turn state’s witness and testify against Netanyahu.

Allegations of corruption involving Netanyahu have still not ripened into a full-blown investigation directly against him, and police are defining the current procedure as a “probe.”

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Harow was originally held on Thursday to give testimony over a probe into suspicions surrounding Netanyahu’s campaign fundraising abroad, but investigators later decided to interrogate him under caution, signaling that he is being treated as a suspect.

An interrogation under caution usually indicates that the person in the hot seat is considered a possible suspect and may face prosecution. Police said Harow was questioned over suspicions of fraud as part of another probe they are carrying out. Harow, who holds dual US-Israeli citizenship, will be kept under house arrest for five days.

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