New criminal investigation of PM unlikely, official source claims
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New criminal investigation of PM unlikely, official source claims

Person familiar with recently announced preliminary probe says there’s apparently insufficient material to merit major inquiry

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1976 hostage rescue in Entebbe, Uganda, July 4, 2016. (AFP/Ronald Kabuubi)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1976 hostage rescue in Entebbe, Uganda, July 4, 2016. (AFP/Ronald Kabuubi)

A newly announced preliminary probe into allegations of corruption by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to produce enough evidence to warrant the opening of a criminal investigation, an official with knowledge of the inquiry told Channel 10 News on Monday.

“At this stage there is not enough material for an interview under caution of Netanyahu,” the source said.

Channel 2 reported, meanwhile, that it would likely become clear within the next 10 days whether or not the inquiry would develop into something more substantial.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit acknowledged Sunday that he had ordered the probe into the allegations leveled at the prime minister, but rejected “inaccurate” media reports about the nature of the suspicions. Netanyahu denied any wrongdoing and predicted the probe would be closed.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on July 05, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on July 05, 2015. (Emil Salman/Pool)

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.

In a measured but laconic statement Sunday, Israel’s top law enforcement officer hinted that he may make the details of the allegations public — but only when doing so would not undermine the probe.

“In the wake of information that was received on matters relating to the prime minister, among others, and that was presented to the attorney general by the Investigations and Intelligence Department of the police, the attorney general has held a number of discussions together with the state attorney and other senior officials in the Justice Ministry and the police Investigations and Intelligence Department,” the statement read.

“At the conclusion [of the discussions], the attorney general decided to order a probe into the matter,” it added. “It is to be emphasized that this is a probe only, and no criminal investigation has been opened related to the prime minister. In recent days, many reports have been published in the media that do not accurately reflect, to put it mildly, the facts surrounding the probe.”

Mandelblit’s statement said he “is conscious of the importance of making the facts available to the public. The issue [of publicizing details of the probe] is weighed regularly, subject to the needs of the probe.”

Netanyahu vehemently denied any wrongdoing in a terse statement Sunday: “As in all the previous instances, when allegations were made against the prime minister that turned out to be baseless, nothing will come of this — because there’s nothing there.”

French trader Arnaud Mimran arrives at the Paris courthouse on July 7, 2016 for deliberations in his trial over an alleged carbon tax scam.(AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)
French trader Arnaud Mimran arrives at the Paris courthouse on July 7, 2016 for deliberations in his trial over an alleged carbon tax scam. (AFP/Bertrand Guay)

In a separate case, Mandelblit last month reportedly instructed the state prosecution to look into allegations that Netanyahu accepted 1 million euros (about $1.1 million) in 2009 from convicted French fraudster Arnaud Mimran.

In May, Israel’s state comptroller issued a report critical of the financial aspects of Netanyahu’s foreign trips from 2003 to 2005, when he served as finance minister.

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