JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday was grilled for three long hours on suspicion of receiving gifts from businessmen, as part of an ongoing corruption probe.
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Investigators quizzed Netanyahu at his residence in central Jerusalem “on suspicion of receiving benefits”, a police spokesman said afterwards, without giving any further details.
Ahead of the questioning, Netanyahu denied any wrongdoing and told his political foes to put any “celebrations” on hold.
“I want to tell them to wait for the celebrations. Do not rush. I told you and I repeat: There will be nothing because there is nothing. You will continue to inflate hot air balloons and we will continue to lead the state of Israel,” he said.
Netanyahu has admitted receiving money from French magnate Arnaud Mimran, who was sentenced to eight years in prison over a scandal worth 283 million euros ($297m).
Netanyahu’s office said he had received $40,000 in contributions from Mimran in 2001, when he was not in office, as part of a fund for public activities, including appearances abroad for promotion of Israel.
US billionaire and World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder has been among those who faced barrage in the probe over gifts he allegedly presented to Netanyahu and alleged spending on trips for him, Israeli media reported.
The justice ministry confirmed in a statement that officials of a police anti-corruption unit carried out the investigation, adding that Netanyahu was “suspected of having received gifts from businessmen”.
On the other hand, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Haaretz: “It’s all nonsense. Since Netanyahu’s victory in the last elections and even before, hostile elements have used heroic efforts to attempt to bring about his downfall, with false accusations against him and his family.
“This [latest attempt] is absolutely false. There was nothing and there will be nothing.”