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Israel police to open corruption probe against Netanyahu, reports say

Israeli media have reported that police will open a criminal probe against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week. The Israeli leader is alleged to have received large-scale gifts from two businessmen.

Israel's most viewed television channel reported Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands to be questioned by police as part of a criminal investigation against him.

A Channel 2 television report accused the prime minister of receiving valuable gifts, or "favors," from two businessmen. 

The television station, along with news site Ynet, said police are expected to open a criminal corruption probe against Netanyahu as early as next week.

The report also suggested that Netanyahu was also a suspect in a second corruption probe involving members of his family. That case is said to involve some 50 witnesses.

Israel's Justice Ministry and police did not comment on Channel 2's report, but said they would issue a statement "in due time." The police, however, downplayed the media reports, saying they contained "speculations and disinformation."

Netanyahu's office denied the reports outright.

However, in July, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered a preliminary investigation into Netanyahu, although he refused to give any details concerning the nature of the inquiry. Local media reported it was related to the prime minister's personal finances.

Links to jailed French tycoon

Leading opposition lawmaker Erel Margalit of the Zionist Union Party has campaigned for a formal investigation to be launched into Netanyahu's relationship with prominent donors.

Netanyahu has admitted to receiving money from jailed French tycoon Arnaud Mimran in the past. The prime minister's office said he received some $40,000 (37,990 euros) in contributions from Mimran in 2001. However, that was before Netanyahu took public office. The money was said to be part of funding for public activities, such as promoting Israel abroad.

Mimran was sentenced to eight years in prison in July for a scam involving taxes on carbon emissions permits amounting to some 283 million euros.

Netanyahu has also come under fire over an alleged conflict of interest in the purchase of Dolphin-class submarines from German firm ThyssenKrupp. Netanyahu's family lawyer, David Shimron, also acts as the Israeli agent for the German industrial conglomerate.

dm/sms (AFP, AP)