PM shrugs off graft suspicions as ‘nothing’ after latest questioning
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PM shrugs off graft suspicions as ‘nothing’ after latest questioning

Investigators leave Netanyahu's residence after 4.5 hours of grilling Friday over gifts from Hollywood mogul, Australian billionaire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the International Conference on Digital Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on December 7, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the International Conference on Digital Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on December 7, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the criminal investigation examining suspicions he received illegal gifts from businessmen as police investigators concluded a seventh round of questioning at his Jerusalem residence on Friday.

“There is nothing new under the sun,” Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post and tweet. “This time, too, I answered all the questions, and again I say with absolute certainty: There will be nothing, because there was nothing. Thank you for the tremendous support!”

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

Netanyahu was presented with testimony given by Australian billionaire James Packer that several Hebrew media reports have said strengthened the likelihood of bribery charges against him.

Australian businessman James Packer speaks to the Financial Review Sunday TV show from Tel Aviv on June 6, 2013. (screen capture: YouTube)

It was his last opportunity to refute the suspicions before police pass the case on to the State Prosecution 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.

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

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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