Israel's attorney general probes suspicions surrounding PM

AP News
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Posted: Jul 11, 2016 2:35 AM
Israel's attorney general probes suspicions surrounding PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's attorney general is looking into suspicions surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which are reportedly linked to a large transfer of money to the Israeli leader or one of his family members.

The examination, announced late Sunday, could prove a new challenge for Netanyahu, who has been fighting off accusations of shady dealings and financial mismanagement against him and his wife.

Israel's Justice Ministry did not disclose what the suspicions against Netanyahu were. But reports in Israeli media in recent days have said that Netanyahu or one of his family members received large sums of money, allegedly unrelated to political campaigns.

The ministry's statement said the media reports were "incorrect to say the least" and that the attorney general had not yet launched a full-fledged criminal investigation against Netanyahu, a probe that could lead to charges.

"As happened in all previous instances, when deeds attributed to Prime Minister Netanyahu turned out to be baseless, here as well there will be nothing, because there is nothing," said Nir Hefetz, an adviser to the Netanyahu family.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara have been dogged by scandals in recent years that have contributed to an unflattering reputation for lavish living out of touch with the average Israeli. The scandals do not seem to have threatened his rule, but have been a source of embarrassment, providing more fodder for those who charge that power has corrupted the couple.

Sara, who has long been a lightning rod of controversy, has been accused of mistreatment by former employees at the couple's official residence, and the police have recommended indicting her over inflated household spending and misuse of state funds — including for private meals and for a caregiver for her ailing father.

Netanyahu spent more than $600,000 of public funds on a six-day trip to New York last year, including $1,600 on a personal hairdresser. Arnaud Mimran, a French man convicted of a carbon tax fraud last week, claimed he gave Netanyahu large sums for one of his election campaigns, which, if true, would violate Israel's campaign finance laws.

Netanyahu said he lawfully received a $40,000 donation from Mimran while he held no office.

The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing.