JERUSALEM, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced lengthy police questioning at his official residence for the second time in a week over allegations he accepted expensive gifts from businessmen.
At the center of the case are expensive cigars Netanyahu is known to smoke that have allegedly been provided to him by Israeli-American movie producer Arnon Milchan, a longtime friend of the Netanyahus.
The prime minister's lawyer, Yaakov Weinroth, brushed off media questions about the allegations, saying personal gifts exchanged between friends does not amount to public corruption.
"Any reasonable person knows that someone bringing their friend cigars is not a criminal offense," Weinroth said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The New York Times reported Israeli police are in the process of interviewing dozens of potential witnesses who may have knowledge of gifts given to the prime minister and his wife. The task after that, the Times reported, will be determining whether any of those gifts were given with the expectation of favors in return, or if they amounted to simple generosity.
Police officials declined to comment on the status of the investigation.
Netanyahu was questioned by police for several hours earlier in the week at his official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. News reporters camped out outside the residence snapped photos and filmed what they said were investigators entering and leaving, along with Weinroth.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing, repeating the mantra the allegations would amount to "nothing, because there is nothing." He wrote off the allegations to overzealous media reports and efforts by his political opposition.
Netanyahu has proved to be the ultimate political survivor in Israel, serving his third consecutive term as prime minister and fourth overall. He has faced allegations of corruption in the past, but they have never risen to the level of a criminal inquiry.
His predecessor Ehud Olmert, however, was driven from office due to a corruption scandal and is now serving a 19-month prison sentence after being convicted of bribery and obstruction of justice.