Benjamin Netanyahu under investigation, Israeli police confirm
Gag order issued as 2 investigations ongoing; Netanyahu's office calls allegations 'unfounded'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of crimes involving fraud, breach of trust and bribes in two corruption cases, Israeli police revealed Thursday.
Police have been questioning Netanyahu for months over the cases but have released few details. It released a gag order Thursday night on reporting the details of talks that are underway to enlist a state witness.
The document says the cases involving Netanyahu deal with "a suspicion of committing crimes of bribery, fraud and breach of trust."
Ari Harrow, Netanyahu's ex-chief of staff, has agreed to testify in the two cases against his former boss, according to reports Friday in the Haaretz daily and others.
Netanyahu's office has repeatedly denied wrongdoing over the investigations, portraying the accusations as a witch hunt against him and his family by a hostile media opposed to his hard-line political views.
A statement from his office Thursday night said, "We completely reject the unfounded claims against the prime minister." It said the allegations are part of a campaign to "replace the government" and "there will be nothing, because there was nothing."
One investigation, dubbed "File 1000," reportedly concerns claims that Netanyahu improperly accepted lavish gifts from wealthy supporters, including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
The second investigation, "File 2000," reportedly concerns Netanyahu's alleged attempts to strike a deal with publisher Arnon Mozes of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper group to promote legislation to weaken Yediot's main competitor in exchange for more favourable coverage of him by Yediot.
Netanyahu, who took office in 2009, has long had an image as a cigar-smoking, cognac-drinking socialite, while his wife, Sara, has been accused of abusive behaviour toward staff. Opponents have portrayed both as being out of touch with the struggles of average Israelis.