Netanyahu to be investigated for bribery, fraud

Tel Aviv, Dec 29 (IANS) Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has ordered a full criminal probe into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over two separate cases involving bribery and fraud, local media reported. One of the cases was reported to have emerged newly.

The Prime Minister was expected to be called in by police for questioning in the coming days, the Times of Israel reports, adding that he faces allegations of bribery and fraud.

Meanwhile, Israeli TV Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu will be investigated over two separate matters. Both the Justice Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the issue.

Hours before the report, lawyer and Labour Party activist Eldad Yaniv wrote on Facebook that Mandelblit “realised there was no other choice but to open an investigation” due to what he said was “weighty proof linking Bibi, as Netanyahu is popularly called, to suspicions of bribery and fraud” allegedly available to police.

Yaniv, joined by Erel Margalit of the Zionist Union, petitioned the High Court of Justice in December, demanding to clarify why the Attorney General had not opened the probe earlier.

Mandelblit’s decision reportedly comes after police have obtained new documents in a secret probe against Netanyahu by special police unit Lahav 433, which was launched in June. The probe was approved by police chief Roni Alsheich, who demanded secrecy and that no details of the investigation be leaked to the media.

Earlier, it was reported that Mandelblit reportedly instructed employees in the state prosecutor’s office to investigate the allegations that Netanyahu accepted €1 million ($1.04 million) from Arnaud Mimran, a French businessman currently serving eight years in prison for committing carbon tax fraud.

Mirman claimed he donated money for Netanyahu’s 2009 election campaign — an allegation that the PM has repeatedly denied.

The subject of the second probe was, however, not known to the public, Channel 10 reported.

Netanyahu’s spokesperson has lately dismissed the allegations of bribery and fraud as “nonsense”.

The new reported dual probe was the latest in the string of investigations involving Netanyahu.

In November, Mandelblit opened a probe into the Prime Minister’s decision to buy submarines from a German defence company, which was suspected to have been taken under the influence of a personal friend, a lawyer with alleged business ties with the submarine builder.

In May, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira issued a report criticising Netanyahu’s foreign trips taken between 2003 and 2005 when he was the finance minister. At the same time, Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, was accused of misusing public funds.

In July 2015, then Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced a criminal investigation into alleged misconduct at Netanyahu’s residences.