PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu responds to the speech given in Washington on Wednesday by Secretary of State John Kerry..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Police on Thursday began questioning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a second time this week over suspicions that he received illegal gifts from businessmen.
Authorities previously questioned the premier under caution at his residence on Monday for more than three hours in connection with the ongoing investigation.
Netanyahu – who has denied the allegations – is suspected of receiving improper gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from Israeli and foreign businessmen, in a manner which breached his duty of trust as a public servant.
Part of a police statement issued after the initial questioning said that "investigators questioned PM Benjamin Netanyahu under caution on suspicion of receiving benefits." No additional details were initially given.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit issued a statement late Monday night on the alleged graft charges, confirming that the probe into Netanyahu’s dealings had become a full-fledged criminal investigation and that the prime minister had been accused of ethics breaches. However, Mandelblit’s statement was vague and short on details.
Netanyahu on Tuesday repeated the mantra he has been saying for months about the investigations: “There will be nothing, because there is nothing.”
Netanyahu's attorney Yaakov Weinroth said the prime minister could be “very relaxed” in the face of a criminal investigation, according to Channel 2 on Tuesday. The report also said that Netanyahu’s associates understood there were more serious allegations awaiting the prime minister, although they contended that any gifts he received had been negligible and given in friendship.
His office confirmed that it had ordered a preliminary review in July of a variety of allegations.
The prime minister and his wife, Sara, have weathered several scandals over the years, including investigations into the misuse of state funds and an audit of the family's spending on everything from laundry to ice cream. They have denied any wrongdoing.
Netanyahu is not the first prime minister to be questioned in a criminal case.
Ehud Olmert, who held office from 2006 to 2009, is currently serving 18 months in prison after being convicted of breach of trust and bribery in 2014.
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon was questioned while in office in 2003 and 2004 over allegations of bribery and corruption involving him and his two sons. In 2006, his son Omri was convicted of corruption and served time in prison.Eliyahu Kamisher and Reuters contributed to this report.