Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu Questioned as Suspects in Bezeq Case 4000

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Benjamin Netanyahu ponders a media question after visiting the "3000 years of history: Jews in Jerusalem" exhibit at United Nations headquarters. March 8, 2018.
Benjamin Netanyahu ponders a media question after visiting the "3000 years of history: Jews in Jerusalem" exhibit at United Nations headquarters. March 8, 2018. Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew

Police on Monday interrogated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, as suspects in the Bezeq case. They were confronted, for the first time, with statements from Nir Hefetz, a former confidant of the couple who signed a state’s evidence agreement with the prosecution.

The two were questioned simultaneously, Benjamin Netanyahu at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and Sara at the headquarters of the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 special crimes unit. 

In first, the premier's son, Yair Netanyahu, was questioned regarding intel given by Hefetz that the former also ordered him to favorably alter news coverage on the Walla site while being aware of the alleged benefits given by his father to Bezeq.

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Two other suspects in the case, Shaul Elovitch and his wife, Iris Elovitch, were also questioned by police Monday. Shaul Elovitch is the controlling shareholder of the telecommunications giant Bezeq. A former official of Netanyahu's bureau was questioned under caution.

The investigation, dubbed Case 4000, revolves around suspicions that Netanyahu conferred regulatory benefits on Bezeq in exchange for the Elovitches arranging for favorable coverage of the Netanyahu family on Bezeq’s news website, Walla.

Police planned to confront the Netanyahus with Hefetz’s statements to police and supporting evidence, including recordings and text messages. This testimony relates to both sides of the alleged quid pro quo. Hefetz described the orders he received to benefit Bezeq and the meetings at which he relayed these orders to then-Communications Ministry Director General Shlomo Filber, as well as Hefetz’s role as the Netanyahus’ liaison to the Elovitches regarding Walla.

Filber, who also turned state’s evidence, has said that Hefetz was Netanyahu’s envoy for messages relating to Bezeq. He and Hefetz both said they met numerous times.

Hefetz said both Netanyahus were aware of the quid pro quo, even if they never said so explicitly. The prosecution estimates the values of the benefits Bezeq received at about one billion shekels ($290 million)

Police were also expected to ask about a meeting between Hefetz and Elovitch at which they allegedly discussed ways to obstruct the investigations. Detectives want to know whose idea this was. They were expected to ask the Netanyahus whether they sent Hefetz to meet with the Elovitches in December 2016, in light of media reports at the time about an undercover investigation against Netanyahu, and to ask them to erase all evidence of their conversations with the Netanyahus from their cellphones. (That probe became a different investigation, involving alleged bribery between Netanyahu and newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes.)

Following that meeting, Shaul Elovitch met with Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua and asked him to erase all evidence of the Netanyahus’ requests as well. Instead, Yeshua deliberately saved this evidence. The Netanyahus sometimes contacted Walla’s management several times a day.

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