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Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Netanyahu lawyer says graft allegations lack substance

AFP , Friday 6 Jan 2017
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to attend a Likud party meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem January 2, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)
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A lawyer for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday there was "nothing of substance" in allegations he illegally accepted gifts from rich supporters.

Police on Thursday questioned Netanyahu for five hours at his Jerusalem residence as part of a corruption probe, the second such interrogation in four days.

"It is clear that there is nothing of substance in the suspicions," attorney Jacob Weinroth said in a statement.

Weinroth did not directly refer to the police suspicions against his client, but referred throughout to media allegations.

Among them is a report by privately owned Channel Two television saying police suspect that over the course of seven or eight years Israeli businessman, Hollywood producer and Netanyahu friend Arnon Milchan sent him boxes of expensive cigars with a total value of tens of thousands of dollars.

It said police also suspect that Milchan gave Netanyahu's wife Sara pink champagne priced at about $100 a bottle.

According to Haaretz Newspaper, Milchan owns a 9.8-percent stake in Israeli Channel 10 television, a competitor to Channel Two.

Forbes magazine lists his net worth as $5.8 billion.

Milchan has produced many films, including the Julia Roberts blockbuster "Pretty Woman".

Weinroth's statement said, without confirming the report, that there was no law against having generous friends.

"Any reasonable person understands that if a close friend brings his friend cigars as a gift there is not and cannot be any shred of prohibition, any trace of criminal offence."

Haaretz said that Milchan is "also a partner and acquaintance of Australian billionaire James Packer, whose name has also been linked to the case involving the perks."

It said that Milchan had given testimony to the Israeli police.

The probe has raised questions over whether Netanyahu, 67 and in his fourth term as prime minister, would eventually be forced to resign.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing, saying repeatedly that nothing will come of the investigation "because there is nothing".

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