World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder was questioned by Israeli police last week in connection to the fraud probe into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it emerged Tuesday.
The police's anti-fraud unit summoned Lauder while he was in Israel for Shimon Peres' funeral and questioned him about various aspects of the fraud case. The development was first reported by Channel 2.
Lauder, a Jewish-American businessman and philanthropist, was for decades considered to be a close friend of Netanyahu and has served as the prime minister's envoy on diplomatic missions. Lauder's name came up in the probe in connection to gifts he had allegedly given to Netanyahu during their meetings in Israel and abroad as well as funding for the prime minister's trips.
The relationship between Lauder and Netanyahu deteriorated after Channel 10 ran an exposé in 2011 about how the latter's family trips were funded. Lauder was one of the channel's owners at the time.
Last month it was reported that the fraud inquiry into Netanyahu focuses on an attempt to solicit bribes. According to a Channel 2 report, the suspicion is that Netanyahu himself – not through his son or wife – attempted to solicit a bribe.
The latter probe is part of a major case that is under investigation. Part of the inquiry, which touches on Netanyahu's employment of an adviser with funds from an NGO, has been blocked by a decision from Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.
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