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Netanyahu faces 10th interrogation over telecom corruption probe

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday for rare talks on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
RONEN ZVULUN (POOL/AFP/File)
Netanyahu denied illicit Bezeq deal and said claims of special relationship with Elovitch is 'baseless'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced fresh interrogation by police on Tuesday over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal centered on telecommunications giant Bezeq, marking his fourth police grilling in the case and tenth in a series of corruption probes implicating him and/or members his inner circle.

The case, dubbed "Case 4,000" to differentiate it from a slew of other investigations into the affairs of the premier and his inner circle, centers on allegations that Netanyahu made concessions benefiting Bezeq's controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive media coverage of him and his wife Sara on Elovitch's popular news website Walla.

Elovitch was also expected to be questioned in the case on Tuesday. Both Netanyahu's wife Sara and their son Yair have been questioned in the case, but were not expected to face new questioning on Tuesday.

Police investigators arrived at the Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem around 10:00 a.m. local time, where a small group of protesters had gathered holding a massive banner reading "crime minister."

According to reports, Netanyahu was questioned over audio recordings handed over to police by state’s witness and former senior aide to the prime minister, Nir Hefetz.

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has never made a deal with Elovitch in exchange for sympathetic coverage,” Netanyahu's family spokesman said in a statement following the interrogation on Tuesday.

"On the contrary, over the years Prime Minister Netanyahu has consistently been badly treated by the Walla website," the statement continued. "This negative coverage culminated in a flood of virulent activities on the eve of the 2015 elections, in an attempt to persuade the public to vote against him."

The evidence provided by Hefetz reportedly shows that both Netanyahu and Elovitch were clearly aware that a quid pro quo deal was taking place, and that Hefetz spoke with Elovitch six to seven times a day when he serving as an adviser to the prime minister.

"The claim of a special relationship to Elovitch in the Bezeq-Yes deal is also baseless," the statement added.

Hefetz has also provided the police with new evidence in two other corruption cases against Netanyahu, including another involving an alleged quid-pro-quo agreement with one of the country’s leading newspapers in exchange for favorable coverage of the premier and his family.

In “Case 1,000” -- in which police allege Netanyahu accepted around 1 million shekels ($280,000) worth of luxury gifts from a number of wealthy benefactors in exchange for favorable government treatment -- Hefetz reportedly provided investigators with names of additional patrons seemingly strengthening suspicions that the exchanges were methodical.

Jim Hollander/Pool Photo via AP

In “Case 2,000” -- which centers on an alleged arrangement with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to limit circulation of the newspaper's main rival in exchange for more favorable coverage -- Hefetz reportedly provided investigators with the names of additional figures involved in mediating the alleged arrangement.

Police in February recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in both “Case 1,000” and “Case 2,000”.

Last month, Netanyahu faced questionings in yet another case dubbed the “submarine affair” in which police suspect bribes were solicited during negotiations between German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp and the Israeli government over the purchase of new submarines for Israel's navy.

Police have not said Netanyahu is suspected of wrongdoing in the affair, also known as “Case 3,000”.

The mounting cases have fueled speculation Netanyahu could be forced to step down or call an early election, but he has maintained his innocence and has denounced all allegations against him as a media and police witch hunt.

See also:

Netanyahu's tangled web of corruption cases explained

Sara Netanyahu's fraud trial postponed three months: court

Explosive texts show collusion between judge, investigators in Bezeq affair

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