American Jewish billionaire and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder has denied media reports that he told the Israel Police he has given gifts to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or members of his family, say Lauder’s associates.
Lauder, who visited Israel at the end of September to attend the funeral of former President Shimon Peres, was asked to answer questions from the police’s national fraud unit as part of their examination of corruption allegations concerning Netanyahu.
Sources close to Lauder said he did provide testimony to police when asked about a number of incidents that happened years ago.
Lauder’s testimony shed further light on the affair, at the same time that a number of new developments emerged and dozens of witnesses spoke to police.
The attempt to present Lauder as a key figure in the case stems from the falling out he and Netanyahu have had in recent years, say sources close to Lauder.
Lauder cooperated with the police investigators, and it is not clear how much his version of the events supports any suspicions against Netanyahu, said Lauder’s associates. The police have taken testimony from a number of people outside of Israel, and Lauder has not been asked to testify again, said the sources.
Netanyahu is expected to be questioned by police investigators for a second time on Friday at his official residence in Jerusalem. Police are preparing to summon others for questioning in the near future, and it is possible some of those who were questioned during the preliminary examination will now be called back to provide further testimony during the official investigation stage.
Lauder’s Israeli lawyer, Helena Beilin, said: “Upon Mr. Lauder’s arrival in Israel for the funeral of his friend Shimon Peres last year, he was asked by a law enforcement representative to meet with Israeli police at their office and respond to questions related to an investigation, to which Mr. Lauder is not a party. After a short meeting the following day, he was told that his presence was no longer needed and that there would be no need for additional meetings. This remains the case.”
Lauder met for a brief time with police on September 28, and he was never questioned under caution as a suspect, but only answered questions, Beilin added. He was not asked to provide further testimony in the United States, and reports to the contrary are false, said Beilin.
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