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Israel's Attorney General orders criminal investigation into Benjamin Netanyahu over fraud and bribery claims

Israel's Attorney General has ordered a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a TV channel in the country has reported.

The order, if confirmed, follows a nine-month-long police inquiry into the Israeli leader, which found documents that were put before Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

It was reported in June that Roni Alsheikh, the Chief of Israeli Police, had ordered the country’s special police unit, Lahav 433, which has been compared to the FBI, to investigate the Prime Minister - but demanded total secrecy and no leaks to the media.

Investigators are reportedly looking into allegations Mr Netanyahu accepted €1 million (£850,000) from Arnaud Mimran, a French businessman currently serving eight years in prison for committing a huge carbon-tax fraud. During his trial, Mimran claimed to have donated the money to Mr Netanyahu during the 2009 Israeli election campaign - something the politician has consistently denied.

Earlier this year a spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister said: “Mr. Netanyahu received no prohibited contribution from Mimran. Any other claim is a lie.”

The Prime Minister did, however, admit accepting $40,000 (£33,000) from Mimran in 2001.

The Netanyahus have long faced scrutiny over their spending and have fended off accusations their lifestyles are out of touch with ordinary Israelis.

Sara Netanyahu, in particular, has been accused of using government funds to support her expensive tastes as well as alleged abusive behaviour towards staff.

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In February, a former employee won a court case against her alleging he was subjected to abusive language and insults.

It was reported in June that Mr Mandelblit, the Attorney General, was planning to close three cases of fraud against Ms Netanyahu against the recommendation of police.

Investigators had reportedly recommended she be charged with three incidents of fraud after allegedly using public money for personal use. She is accused of spending state funds on patio furniture, gourmet dinners with private chefs, and a carer for her father.

Last month it was claimed Mr Netanyahu had been involved in an Israeli Defense Ministry deal to buy submarines from a German company that is owned partly by the Iranian government, which Israel sees as an enemy.

Opponents suggested the Prime Minister may have been influenced by links between his personal lawyer, David Shimron, and the shipbuilder, ThyssenKrupp. Both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Shimron denied any wrongdoing.

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