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Israel's Netanyahu to be questioned over 'graft': media

© AFP | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs Israel's weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on February 25, 2018

JERUSALEM (AFP) - 

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to be questioned as a suspect in a further case of alleged corruption and as a witness in another, Israeli media reported Sunday.

The police, who have questioned the prime minister seven times since the beginning of 2017, in mid-February recommended the premier be indicted for graft, fraud and breach of trust in two other cases.

The cases have fuelled speculation he could be forced to step down or call an early election.

Public radio and television on Sunday reported he would be questioned on Friday as a suspect in alleged attempts to seek positive media coverage through favours to telecommunications giant Bezeq.

He would also face interrogation as a witness in suspected corruption around Israel's purchase of three submarines from German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp.

A police spokesperson could not immediately confirm the reports.

The Bezeq case involves the main shareholder of Israel's top communications group, Shaul Elovitch and his wife, as well as group CEO Stella Handler and four others who were arrested in mid-February.

According to press reports, investigators are focusing on allegations that Shaul Elovitch, Bezeq's controlling shareholder, gave Netanyahu positive coverage on his Walla! news site in exchange for policies benefiting the business.

Shlomo Filber, a Netanyahu ally for more than 20 years and former director general of the communications ministry, is expected to agree to turn state witness in exchange for avoiding jail, according to Israeli media reports confirmed by police.

A gag order prevented publishing any details of the deal.

Filber is suspected of mediating between Netanyahu and Elovitch and promoting regulatory changes worth millions to Bezeq.

The police on Sunday also extended the custody of Eli Kamir, a communications adviser suspected of being involved in the Bezeq case.

Kamir is also suspected, alongside Nir Hefetz, a fellow former media adviser to the Netanyahu family, of offering a judge promotion in exchange for dropping a case against the premier's wife over alleged misuse of public funds.

The police have already recommended Netanyahu's indictment in two cases.

In one, he and family members are suspected of receiving one million shekels ($285,000, 230,000 euros) 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 daily newspaper, for more favourable coverage.

The decision on whether or not to indict him now rests with the attorney general.

© 2018 AFP