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Israel PM questioned for first time in corruption case

03 March 2018

Mr Netanyahu's wife Sara was also questioned at the same time as her husband, at a police station near Tel Aviv, her lawyer said.

In the Bezeq case, known as Case 4000, authorities allege that the owners of the telecoms firm provided favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his wife on a news website they controlled in return for favors from regulators.

In exchange Netanyahu allegedly raised the possibility of passing legislation to limit the circulation of Israel Hayom, a free newspaper that is the main rival to Yediot.

However, police said in a statement, after the question was concluded, that the prime minister and his wife "were questioned for a number of hours as part of an investigation by police unit, Lahav 433 and the Israeli Securities Authority". Television footage showed police investigators entering Netanyahu's residence.

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Asked to confirm which cases the questioning referred to and whether the prime minister or his wife were being treated as criminal suspects, a police spokesman remained vague, telling The Times of Israel only that the interrogations took place "in general as part of the investigation".

If investigators discover a promise for favorable coverage, Sarah Netanyahu could be charged.

A Reuters cameraman saw a vehicle carrying two police officers pull into the Prime Minister's official residence yesterday morning.

Last month, police recommended that the prime minister be indicted for a series of serious corruption charges including bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two other cases.

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He is suspected of mediating between Netanyahu and Elovitch and promoting regulatory changes worth millions to Bezeq. Netanyahu will visit Washington to meet with US President Donald Trump, and he will also deliver a keynote address at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference, which officially begins Saturday night.

The Israeli prime minister, in an apparently unrelated case, is also subjected to accusations that he and his spouse misappropriated public funds to pay for private expenses, ranging from laundry to ice cream.

"A prime minister under investigation can not, and may not, take crucial decisions", Shuki Cohen, a 63-year-old economist from Moshav Arugot, said. He has denied any wrongdoing.

One of the two Netanyahu's confidants arrested last month has turned state witness and will reportedly incriminate him in the corruption allegations.

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Mr Netanyahu is accused of accepting almost $300,000 (Dh1.1m) in lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.

Israel PM questioned for first time in corruption case