Netanyahu Questioned Over Valuables
Oct. 21, 1999
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah, were questioned by police today, a day after officers seized dozens of valuable items the couple is suspected of having kept illegally after he left office.
Netanyahu waved briefly before he and his wife entered the Fraud Squad headquarters in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam. They were questioned for nine hours, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m, Israel radio reported.
Netanyahu's lawyer, David Shimron, said his client had done nothing wrong and accused police of conducting a politically tainted investigation. Shimron said the items were in storage until they could be sorted.
Mrs. Netanyahu supervised the packing when the couple prepared to leave the official residence after her husband's election defeat in May, according to Israel army radio. The report said personal items and gifts the Netanyahus had received while in office were packed at the same time.
Wednesday's searches were connected to an ongoing investigation into allegations that Netanyahu accepted illegal favors from a contractor, Avner Amedi, while in office, police said. In that case, Netanyahu and his wife were questioned for more than seven hours last month.
Amedi's lawyer, Yaron Rabinovitch, said the contractor had promised to provide information on the Netanyahus as part of a plea bargain deal. According to Israel army radio, Amedi would admit to bribery, but not serve jail time.
On Wednesday, police investigators searched Netanyahu's Jerusalem apartment, his office and a storage room he uses. Journalists were tipped off in advance, while the Netanyahus were taken by surprise, prompting accusations that the police were treating the couple unfairly.
``This could have been handled in an entirely different way,'' Shimron said.
Police said dozens of items were seized, including pictures and gold and silver pieces. Police did not offer specifics or say whether anything found was classified as state property _ official gifts he was given while still prime minister.
Shimron said the storage room that was searched was a government facility and the items were being held there, along with some of the Netanyahus' personal property, until they could be sorted out.
``It was for temporary storage, between the phases of official and private life,'' Shimron told Israel army radio.
The Netanyahus have been interrogated in the past about a bill for $100,000 submitted by Amedi for work he did for the couple while Netanyahu was prime minister.
Much of Amedi's work was at Netanyahu's private home. An Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, reported that Amedi polished the floors weekly, though the Netanyahu family was living in the official prime minister's residence at the time.
Amedi submitted bills for moving furniture from the apartment. Because Amedi was never paid, police suspect that he was expecting to receive some sort of improper payment. He later submitted the bill to the prime minister's office after Netanyahu lost the Israeli election in May.
Several other former officials from Netanyahu's office have also been questioned in the case, but no formal charges have been brought.
Police earlier warned Netanyahu and his wife that they might be charged with criminal offenses. Wednesday's statement was the first indicating police suspicion that the couple also took presents home illegally.