World News

Netanyahu, wife questioned 'under caution' in corruption Case 4000

Posted March 2, 2018 3:28 a.m. EST
Updated March 2, 2018 12:32 p.m. EST

— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned "under caution" in Case 4000, according to an Israeli official, making him a suspect now in three corruption investigations.

Investigators questioned Netanyahu at his residence in Jerusalem for five hours Friday morning, marking the eighth time the Israeli leader has been questioned in graft probes targeting him and his inner circle.

An Israeli official told CNN that Netanyahu was questioned "under caution," which refers to the questioning of someone suspected of having committed a crime, with the warning that anything they say, or decline to talk about, could be used against them in court proceedings.

Police simultaneously interrogated Netanyahu's wife, Sara, at a different location. She too was questioned "under caution" in Case 4000, the official said. Her lawyer also confirmed those details to Reuters.

Case 4000 is one of the biggest investigations facing the Israeli leader, dealing with the relationship between the Ministry of Communications -- at a time when Netanyahu was the Communications Minister -- and Israeli telecommunications firm Bezeq.

Prosecutors say Netanyahu advanced regulatory benefits worth up to 1 billion shekels (approximately $280 million) to Shaul Elovitch, Netanyahu's friend who is the controlling shareholder of Bezeq. In exchange, prosecutors say Elovitch gave Netanyahu favorable news coverage in online news site Walla! News, owned by Elovitch.

Elovitch is also a suspect in Case 4000. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In a Facebook video posted shortly after the interrogations concluded, Netanyahu proclaimed his innocence, saying, "(I am) more certain than even there will be nothing." Addressing his supporters, he added: "I want to tell the millions of Israeli citizens who support me and my family: You warm our hearts."

On Friday morning, a ninth suspect was detained for questioning. Earlier this month, a member of Netanyahu's inner circle, long-time confidant Shlomo Filber, turned state witness, agreeing to work with prosecutors, in one of the biggest blows to the Prime Minister.

Netanyahu has already been named a suspect in two separate criminal investigations, known as Case 1000 and 2000. Police have said they have enough evidence to indict Netanyahu on charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.

In Case 1000, police say Netanyahu received gifts worth 1 million shekels ($280 million) from overseas businessmen. In Case 2000, police say Netanyahu negotiated with the owner of an Israeli newspaper for more favorable coverage in exchange for hampering the circulation of a rival paper.

Police have not said whether Netanyahu was questioned in Case 3000, which relates to allegations of corruption in Israel's purchase of German submarines.

Netanyahu has often fired back with what has become his standard response, saying: "There will be nothing because there is nothing."