The State Prosecutor’s Office announced its intention on Wednesday – subject to a pre-indictment hearing – to charge Walla and the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, both of which are at the center of the corruption charges pending against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The prime minister is on trial on three matters, including cases dubbed Cases 2000 and 4000, which relate to Walla, Bezeq and Yedioth Ahronoth.
Indictments were also filed a number of defendants in connection with the merger of Bezeq telecommunications and the Yes satellite television firm.
The investigation of the case gave rise to a separate criminal investigation and the Netanyahu's indictment over allegations that he provided Bezeq with advantageous government regulatory policy in exchange for favorable media coverage on Bezeq’s Walla News website.
In Case 2000, it is alleged that Netanyahu engaged in discussions that were taped with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes in which the prime minister offered legislation favorable to the newspaper in return for positive news coverage.
Case 4000 is the case involving news coverage on the Walla news website. Shaul Elovitch, who was Bezeq’s controlling shareholder at the time, Elovich’s wife, Iris, and Mozes are co-defendants in the trial against the prime minister. All four deny any wrongdoing.
In the new indictments filed on Wednesday in connection with the merger of Bezeq and Walla, the defendants include Shaul Elovich and his son Or and a number of former senior executives at Bezeq and Yes. The charges include aggravated fraud, fraud, breach of trust and securities law reporting violations.
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In its announcement Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office stated its intention to indict corporate entities Yedioth Aharonoth and Walla as well as Eurocom group companies through which Elovich controlled Bezeq, subject to a prior hearing. The Elovich group companies are suspected of bribery and money laundering, while Yedioth Aharonoth is accused of offering a bribe.
If following the pre-indictment hearing, the prosecution decides to indict the two corporations, it is unclear whether they would be tried separately from the Netanyahu trial, which is scheduled to begin the evidentiary phase in January.
The prime minister might now seek a delay in the proceeding due to the future hearings against the corporations. The prosecution would be expected to oppose any delay.