Cigars and pink champagne centre of Netanyahu corruption investigation

Cigars and pink champagne centre of Netanyahu corruption investigation
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was questioned by police for a third time over corruption suspicions that he unlawfully received gifts and allegedly struck a deal with a press baron.
2 min read
27 January, 2017
Police have questioned the Israeli PM for a third time over corruption suspicions [Getty]
Israeli police on Friday grilled Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a third round of questioning over corruption suspicions, including 'unlawfully' receiving expensive cigars and pink champagne, and striking a deal with a press baron, local media reported.

He was questioned at his Jerusalem residence for about four hours and was expected to be interviewed for a fourth time "in the middle of next week", public radio said.

The police spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The questioning had been expected to focus on suspicions of unlawfully receiving gifts from a wealthy supporter and over an alleged bid to strike a deal with an Israeli press mogul, the radio and other media said.

Police reportedly suspect that over several years Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, a longtime friend of Netanyahu, sent him boxes of expensive cigars worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Milchan also allegedly gave Netanyahu's wife Sara pink champagne priced at about $100 a bottle.

"It is permissible to accept gifts from friends," the prime minister said on Wednesday in answer to questions in parliament. "No crime was committed."

Also being probed is a suspicion that the premier sought a secret deal with Amnon Moses, publisher of Israel's top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

The discussed deal, which is not believed to have been finalised, would have seen Netanyahu receive positive coverage in return for helping curb Yedioth's competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu says he has committed no offence and was the target of a campaign by political opponents.

"Hypocrisy is running rampant and the clear aim is to bring down the Likud government with me at its head and to that end all means are legitimate," Netanyahu told MPs.

Netanyahu's Likud party heads a coalition government seen as the most right-wing in Israel's history.

"You don'‎t replace prime ministers by means of investigations," said a defiant Netanyahu. "I'‎ve got news for you: I shall continue to lead the State of Israel for many years."

Police are also looking into two other cases, Israel's Channel 10 television reported earlier this week.

One appears to involve a deal for Israel to purchase German submarines, while the second affair remains unclear, according to the reports.

Police declined to comment on the report.

Netanyahu's cousin and family lawyer was reportedly involved in the deal to purchase Dolphin submarines from Germany's ThyssenKrupp.

Media reports have alleged a conflict of interest over the role played by Shimron, who has also represented ThyssenKrupp's Israeli agent.