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Israel police grill Netanyahu on new fraud case

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem, Undefined | AFP | Israeli police arrived on Friday at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home where media reports said they were to question him for an eighth time over allegations of fraud and bribery.

An AFP journalist saw police arriving at Netanyahu’s official Jerusalem residence in two vehicles at around 9 am (0700 GMT).

Police issued no official confirmation that questioning was under way.

Investigators were at the same time to take a statement from his wife Sara at national fraud squad headquarters near Tel Aviv, media said.

A former Netanyahu aide and a top businessman are both in custody, linked to allegations of suspected fraud by the premier.

Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family, and Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of telecoms group Bezeq, were among seven suspects arrested last week as fraud suspicions against Netanyahu snowballed.

Police suspect Elovitch was given business concessions in return for Netanyahu receiving good press on Walla!, a news website he owns.

– New arrest reported –

In addition, Israeli army radio said Friday that “a former senior communications ministry official close to the prime minister was detained this morning for questioning in the Bezeq affair.”

He was not named.

Channel 10 News reported on Thursday evening that police have seen text conversations between Sara and Elovitch’s wife Iris which strengthen suspicions that their husbands traded favours.

Iris Elovitch and the couple’s son Or were among the seven suspects rounded up last week.

She was released from custody to house arrest Monday and son Or Elovitch was freed on bail, police said.

A statement issued after the broadcast by advisers to the premier branded the report “fake news.”

“No such things ever occurred,” it said in Hebrew. “Tendentious and lying leaks against Mrs. Netanyahu are intended to hurt the prime minister and the Likud government.”

Hefetz is alleged to have acted as a messenger between Netanyahu and Bezeq and Walla! bosses.

He is also suspected of trying to bribe a retired judge to block a probe into the prime minister’s wife over alleged misuse of public funds.

Public radio said on Friday that both were being questioned at fraud squad headquarters simultaneously with Sara but separately.

Police have now questioned the premier eight times since the beginning of 2017, and last month said there was sufficient evidence to charge him with graft, fraud and breach of trust in two other cases.

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