Israel PM faces new questions in graft probe

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. PHOTO: Ariel Schalit / AP / AFP

Fraud squad detectives questioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Jerusalem residence on Friday, the seventh time in a nearly year-long corruption probe, police said.

“Police questioned the PM today for a number of hours as part of an ongoing investigation,” a brief police statement said.

Public radio said an investigation into suspicions Netanyahu received luxury gifts from wealthy supporters, including Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian tycoon James Packer, was nearing completion.

“This is likely to be his last interrogation” on the gifts case, it said.

“After that the police intend to wrap up the case within a short time.”

The Maariv newspaper reported that detectives believed they had sufficient evidence to pass the file to the state prosecutor.

“The police are still deliberating whether to attribute to Netanyahu the offence of bribe-taking or receiving benefits,” Maariv said.

The prime minister was first questioned on January 2.

Investigations are expected to continue in a second case in which police suspect that Netanyahu sought a secret pact for favourable coverage with the publisher of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

The alleged scheme, not believed to have been finalised, would have seen Netanyahu receive favourable coverage in return for helping curb Yediot’s competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and says he has been the target of a smear campaign by political opponents.