Netanyahu allies face police grilling as indictments loom

Police recommend indicting Israeli prime minister's close friend Shaul Elovitch, while others are questioned


Legal pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intensified this week as members of his inner circle were questioned by police and in one case recommended for indictment.

David Shimron and Yitzhak Molcho, who have served as Mr Netanyahu's personal attorneys for nearly four decades, were both questioned by police in a session that lasted three days.

The two brothers-in-law were asked about alleged inducements to Israeli officials offered as part of the purchase of German submarines and missile-boats.

Mr Shimron, the prime minister's cousin, has also represented Mr Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the 2015 coalition talks, while Mr Molcho served until last month as the prime minister's special diplomatic envoy.

Questions are understood to have been asked about the involvement of Mickey Ganor, the Israeli representative of the Thyssenkrupp shipyard, who also used Mr Shimron as a lawyer, prompting allegations of a conflict of interest.

The German government authorised the sale of three submarines to Israel last month, after receiving an official letter from Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblitt saying there was no evidence of corrupt practice by any senior official during the process.

Mr Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case, although questions remained over how aware he was of his lawyers' involvement.

It came as police recommended indicting one of Mr Netanyahu’s closest friends, telecommunications chief Shaul Elovitch, in a separate case of alleged fraud at Bezeq, Israel's largest telecommunications company.

The main allegation is that Bezeq, controlled by Mr Elovitch, bought shares in satellite provider Yes for an exaggerated price. The action was authorised by the communications ministry during the period Mr Netanyahu served as minister, although he is not currently a suspect in this case.

The decision whether to act on the police recommendation to indict will be made by Avichai Mandelblit, the attorney-general.

Mr Mandelblit will also have to rule on the possible indictments of Mr Netanyahu in the two corruption cases concerning gifts he and his wife received from wealthy businesspeople in which he is the main suspect. The police investigations in these cases are nearly complete and the prime minister and his wife are expected to be questioned once more in the coming days.

Mr Netanyahu continues to insist that "nothing will happen because nothing did," and that the investigations are largely due to an "unprecedented witch-hunt" by the media against him and his family.

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