Netanyahu finishes seventh round of police questioning in graft probe
PM says he's 'absolutely certain' probe will go nowhere

Netanyahu finishes seventh round of police questioning in graft probe

Investigators leave PM’s residence after 4.5 hours of grilling over gifts from Hollywood mogul, Australian billionaire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on December 13, 2017 (GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on December 13, 2017 (GPO)

Police investigators concluded a seventh round of questioning of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday in a criminal investigation examining suspicions he received illegal gifts from businessmen.

The session, which began just before 9 a.m. Friday at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, lasted 4.5 hours.

In a statement after the police left, Netanyahu said there was nothing new in the questions, that he answered them all, and that he was “absolutely certain” the probe would lead nowhere because he had done nothing wrong.

Netanyahu, questioned under caution, was presented with testimony given by Australian billionaire James Packer that has strengthened the likelihood of bribery charges against him, according to Hebrew media reports before and after the session.

James Packer at a news conference of the Studio City project in Macau, October 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

It was his last opportunity to refute the suspicions before police pass the case on to the State Prosecutor’s Office for a decision on which charges, if any, will be brought against him in the case police have dubbed “Case 1000,” Hadashot television news said.

Netanyahu was last interrogated two weeks ago when he sat with investigators for four hours at his official residence in Jerusalem.

Channel 10 reported earlier this week that police were expected to confront Netanyahu in Friday’s questioning with testimony from Arnon Milchan, an Israeli film producer suspected of giving the Netanyahu family hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of gifts.

Netanyahu is facing two separate criminal investigations, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

Case 1000 revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by billionaire benefactors, most notably from Milchan.

In November, Hadas Klein, Milchan’s personal assistant, told police that Sara Netanyahu would call her up regularly to ask for cigars and champagne, Hadashot news reported at the time.

Police investigators arrive at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a pair of corruption investigations, on November 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“There were code words for champagne and cigars,” she was quoted as saying. “It went on for years. There was an understanding that Arnon had to supply the Netanyahu couple with whatever they wanted. The cigars were requested by [Benjamin] Netanyahu personally.”

Channel 10 news also reported that Milchan’s driver told investigators he was once forced to leave his home in the middle of the Passover Seder to deliver champagne at the request of the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu.

Arnon Milchan, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu on March 28, 2005. (Flash90)

While leaked reports of the police investigation have indicated that Milchan spent some NIS 400,000-600,000 ($100,000-150,000) on champagne and cigars for the Netanyahus over the better part of a decade, the prime minister and his wife have reportedly told police that the sums involved were far lower, and that the gifts were not strange because the Milchans and the Netanyahus were best friends. Netanyahu has also reportedly told police the items were given willingly, making them gifts rather than demands.

At the end of November, Israeli investigators in cooperation with Australian authorities questioned Packer as part of the corruption probe.

Police are reportedly looking into whether Netanyahu tried to help Packer gain residency in Israel and aided Milchan with a US visa request. Packer, who also bought a home next to Netanyahu in the upscale coastal city of Caesarea, is reportedly seeking residency status for tax purposes.

In a separate investigation, dubbed “Case 2000” by police, Netanyahu is suspected of conducting a clandestine quid-pro-quo deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the prime minister was said to have promised Mozes he would hobble Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth. It was not clear if Case 2000 also came up in Friday’s questioning.

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