JERUSALEM – Israeli police questioned Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife as part of an investigation into a corruption case involving the country’s telecom giant on Friday, casting a shadow on the prime minister’s upcoming visit to Washington.
Police investigators entered Netanyahu’s residence Friday morning. An Associated Press cameraman saw them leave about five hours later.
Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, was questioned at another location at the same time as the prime minister.
Police later issued a statement saying the couple “were questioned for a number of hours as part of an investigation” by police and the Israel Securities Authority.
Last month, two Netanyahu confidants were arrested on suspicion of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Bezeq telecom company. In return, Bezeq’s news site, Walla, allegedly provided positive Netanyahu coverage.
It was the first time that Netanyahu, who as prime minister also held the communications portfolio until last year, was questioned over the affair, known as Case 4000.
The development comes ahead of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington where he is to meet with President Donald Trump and speak before the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC next week.
Police have recommended indicting Netanyahu on corruption charges in two other cases.
Netanyahu is accused of accepting nearly $300,000 in lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In return, police say Netanyahu operated on Milchan’s behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.
In the other case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper’s main rival in return for more favorable coverage. Netanyahu reportedly was recorded asking Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yediot Ahronot, for positive coverage in exchange for helping to weaken Israel Hayom, a free pro-Netanyahu newspaper that had cut into Yediot’s business.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the accusations as a witch hunt orchestrated by a hostile media. He reiterated his belief that “nothing” will come out of the investigations in a Facebook post Friday evening.
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