Israeli PM faces seventh round of questioning over corruption scandal

Israeli PM faces seventh round of questioning over corruption scandal
A new testimony from an Australian billionaire puts Netanyahu back in questioning over allegations he accepted extravagant gifts in return for advancing interests of wealthy friends.
3 min read
15 December, 2017
Bibi and family may have accepted more bribes in latest turn of corruption saga [Getty]
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is being questioned by the national fraud squad at his residence in Jerusalem on Friday for the seventh time in regards to corruption allegations, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Netanyahu is reportedly being questioned "under caution", meaning that he is suspected of criminal wrongdoing.

The new round of questioning comes in light of a new testimony given to Israeli police by Australian billionaire James Packer. The Netanyahu family allegedly received gifts worth over $100,000 from several business moguls, including Packer and Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in a corruption saga known as 'Case 1000'.

Allegations of bribery have been circulating after it was reported that extravagant gifts such as cigars, champagne, luxury holidays and jewellery were allegedly given to the Israeli PM and his family in exchange for advancing the tycoons' business interests.

Israel's Channel Two has previously reported that Packer offered Netanyahu's son Yair a lucrative job at the billionaire's firm, despite having no relevant experience or a university degree. It has also been reported that Packer gave the Netanyahus tickets to the concert of then-fiancée Mariah Carey.

Australian police, working in coordination with representatives of Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office, were finally able to extract a testimony from Packer in Melbourne at the end of November. It is thought that Israeli police will confront Netanyahu with Packer's testimony for the first time.

Australian casino mogul James Packer allegedly gifted the
Israeli PM thousands of dollars worth of gifts, as well as
employing Netanyahu's son in his firm [Getty]

According to Haaretz, Friday’s questioning will be the first under the direction of the new head of the police investigations and intelligence branch, Major General Gadi Siso.

Siso is already a key figure in the investigations, and has previously played an instrumental role in one of the biggest organised crime cases in Israel's history. His predecessor, Major Genrtal Meni Yitzhaki, will continue to work with investigators until the case is finalised and handed over to the State Prosecutor’s Office.

The Israeli leader was questioned twice in November by the fraud squad in relation to Case 1000 after a testimony was given by Hollywood mogul Milchan, as well as in regard to Case 2000. 

Case 2000 is an investigation of allegations that Netanyahu was seeking a deal to receive favourable coverage from newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, in return for curbing its competitor and long time pro-Netanyahu paper Israel Hayom.

Both cases could result in corruption charges for the PM. If charges are brought, it is likely that Netanyahu will have to step down after 11 years and four terms in office, throwing the country into political upheaval.

Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, claiming that investigations, "will produce nothing because there was nothing".

Thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest against government corruption in a demonstration dubbed the "March of Shame".