Avichai Mandelblit and Netanyahu.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit confirmed Sunday that he has ordered an initial probe of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a wider unspecified investigation.
Mandelblit said he made the dramatic decision after reviewing, along with State Attorney Shai Nitzan, evidence from the police intelligence unit.
Though Mandelblit’s statement tried to underplay the gravitas of the announcement, the prime minister’s rivals have said a probe could mark the beginning of Netanyahu’s downfall.
Earlier Sunday, Channel 10 reported that Mandelblit and Nitzan were meeting to make decisions about an initial review of alleged money-laundering by Netanyahu.
A spokesman for the Netanyahus said: “As in all past instances when allegations were made with reference to the prime minister like a passing distraction, here, too, there will be nothing – because there is nothing.”
Allegations of a new major probe against Netanyahu, separate from the “Bibi Tours” and other previously known affairs, have been swirling around for several days. But no specifics have been confirmed.
Mandelblit’s statement slammed the media for misreporting the allegations against Netanyahu, but did not even hint at their true content. Rather, it only confirmed an initial probe and denied that a criminal investigation is in place.
The characterization was bizarre since it has been clear for some time that an initial review is under way; the next decision point will be to open a full criminal investigation.
In practical terms, now that the probe is confirmed, it will function like a criminal investigation.
But Netanyahu, if questioned, will not be questioned under caution.
Once a suspect is questioned under caution, the police aggressively try to get a confession and use any statements made to achieve a conviction later at trial.
However, under former attorney- general Yehuda Weinstein, criminal investigations for top ministers were often replaced with initial reviews to try to downplay expectations and reduce negative attention.
The procedure, whereby law enforcement gives extra privileges to the powerful that do not exist for regular citizens, has drawn heavy criticism.
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