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Netanyahu quizzed as submarine graft probe witness

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pictured in May 2018, is not under suspicion in the submarine affair, known as Case 3000
AFP

Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on Tuesday questioned as a police witness in a probe of alleged corruption over the state purchase of three German submarines, his office said.

Netanyahu is the subject of several corruption investigations, but he is not under suspicion in the submarine affair, known as Case 3000.

“The prime minister gave his testimony in Case 3000. He has given all the details that led to his professional decisions on the matter of the submarines, while explaining their importance for state security,” his office said in a statement.

The statement said Netanyahu was delighted to “put an end once and for all to false claims spread by politicians” that he acted improperly in the affair.

It is the first time Netanyahu has given oral evidence on the matter, and he reportedly spent several hours answering questions.

The case centres on alleged corruption surrounding Germany’s sale to Israel of three submarines manufactured by industrial giant ThyssenKrupp.

Two associates of the prime minister have been questioned several times in the past few months by police heading the investigation.

The German submarines ordered by Israel could be equipped with nuclear missiles and deployed for spying missions off the coast of Iran, where they could be used in the event of a war between the two countries, according to foreign military experts.

Separately, Netanyahu is the subject of two investigations in which the police on February 13 recommended he be indicted.

In one case, he and family members are suspected of receiving one million shekels ($285,000, 240,000 euros) worth of luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery from wealthy personalities in exchange for financial or personal favours.

In the other case, investigators suspect the premier of trying to reach an agreement with the owner of Yediot Aharonot, a top Israeli newspaper, for more favourable coverage.

Netanyahu has protested his innocence and vowed to remain in power, saying he is the victim of a “witch-hunt”.

He also faces suspicions of government favours that allegedly saw regulatory breaks go to Israel’s largest telecom firm Bezeq, in return for favourable coverage of him and his wife by a news website.

Despite his troubles, opinion polls indicate Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party would still be the largest party if elections scheduled for November 2019 were held now.

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