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Thursday, October 21, 1999 Published at 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK

World: Middle East

Netanyahu quizzed by police

Netanyahu (left) is suspected of embezzling $100,000

The former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife have been questioned again by police in connection with a growing corruption scandal.

On Wednesday, Israeli police searched Mr Netanyahu's home and office as part of a widening probe into corruption during his three-year term as premier.

Fraud squad units armed with search warrants seized a large number of valuable items that they suspect were given to the former prime minister as official gifts.

"Dozens of expensive items were seized, including pictures, gold and silver objects that are suspected to be held against the law," police spokeswoman Linda Menuhin said in a statement.

[ image: Police took away dozens of large boxes]
Police took away dozens of large boxes
She said it was believed they were gifts given to him "in his duty as a civil servant that were taken at the end of his office".

Mr Netanyahu's lawyer said his client had not had time to check the contents of hundreds of boxes and accused the police of acting prematurely.

The latest police action is part of a wider investigation involving allegations that the former prime minister embezzled the equivalent of $100,000.

[ image: The Netanyahus went to the police station together]
The Netanyahus went to the police station together
After Mr Netanyahu left office, a bill for $60,000 was presented to the government by a private contractor for work done on his private home.

Two weeks ago, the former premier underwent eight hours of police interrogation.

Mr Netanyahu suffered a humiliating defeat in the Israeli elections earlier this year, and the latest developments have come as a further blow to his reputation.

A spokesman for his right-wing Likud party denied the fraud allegations - blaming them on a smear campaign by his political enemies.

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