Netanyahu criminal investigation can start, Israel’s attorney general says


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Police in three hours of questioning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collected enough information to launch a criminal investigation into fraud and graft charges, Israel’s attorney general said without detailing the evidence.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit released a statement late Monday evening after police from the fraud investigative unit questioned Netanyahu at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Police had worked for several days to reach a mutually agreed-upon time for the questioning.

Netanyahu reportedly is accused of accepting valuable gifts from businessmen, including longtime friend Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress. New evidence collected in recent weeks turned what was to be preliminary questioning into a full investigation, according to the attorney general’s statement.

“The claims that ultimately led to the decision to question Netanyahu came up three months ago as initial suspicions,” the statement said. “Since then, the police have made major efforts to examine them and find evidence to support them. The inquiry developed and branched out in directions different from the ones that initially launched it.”

The statement also listed at least three cases against Netanyahu that have been dropped.

“The nature of the investigation precludes us at this stage from giving details of the ongoing investigation but we will consider releasing more information from time to time according to developments,” the statement said.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

Lauder has admitted to giving Netanyahu gifts, including suits, as well as hospitality for one of his sons on trips outside of Israel. Lauder has said these were gifts that friends give to each other and serve no other purpose.

In a tweet Tuesday morning, Netanyahu reiterated that after years of investigating him and his family, police have come up with nothing.

“I repeat and say, there won’t be anything because there wasn’t anything,” he tweeted.

Police had announced in a tweet after the interrogation that they had questioned the prime minister at the official residence in Jerusalem.


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