Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara Netanyahu, is officially suspected of receiving bribes, an Israeli police official said Thursday afternoon. The official represented the police at a court hearing on the case in question.
Suspicions against the premier's wife are being looked into as part of what police have dubbed "Case 4000," which centers on allegations that the premier gave favors to the owners of Israel's telecom giant, Bezeq, in return for better coverage.
There is evidence that the Netanyahus, Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch and wife Iris were all well aware of the meaning of their actions, the police official added.
Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister's son, was also questioned last March over suspicions that he received bribes from the Elovitch couple after it was revealed that he acted to slant coverage in favor of his family on the Israeli news website Walla.
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According to Netanyahu's disgraced spin doctor Nir Hefetz, Yair Netanyahu (and not just Sara, as previously claimed) instructed him to act to change coverage on the Walla news website. Hefetz claims Yair Netanyahu was fully aware of the benefits his father gave Bezeq.
Superintendent Uri Kanar, the police official who spoke in court about the case, made these statements in response to a query by Iris Elovitch's attorney, who asked whether Sara Netanyahu knew that Bezeq would receive favors in return for favorable coverage.
Superintendent Kanar said that "there are still people who were not interrogated in this case," but he did not clarify whether those who were not questioned had been suspects or witnesses.
A representative of the State Prosecutor's office said that the investigation of Case 4000 is being carried out "quickly, efficiently and to our satisfaction."
According to the State Prosecutor attorney, "the investigation is in advanced stages. There are several investigate actions that are necessary and the estimate is that the case will be transferred to the State Prosecutor's office in the next six months."
Sara Netanyahu's attorneys responded to the report, saying: "What's news about this absurd suspicion? So the police said what they did. This is completely false."
The Netanyahu family responded to reports by stating: "We also found a positive article about our dog Kaya on the Walla website. Kaya is lucky she passed away before she could be added to the circle of suspects who are suspected of bribery. There's no limit to the absurdity, and anyway, coverage of Prime Minister Netanyahu on the Walla site was and has remained negative on a regular basis."
At the center of Case 4000 is the suspicion that a bribery deal took place between Netanyahu and Elovitch. That deal allegedly included government favors to Bezeq in return for slanted coverage in favor of the premier and his wife.
Two weeks ago the prime minister was interrogated at his residence, and his wife was last interrogated by police in March.
Thursday's court hearing at the Tel Aviv district court dealt with a police request to extend by six months the freezing of Shaul and Iris Elovitch's assets, bank accounts and further properties. The two are suspected of giving bribes and of money laundering.
Elovitch's attorney said the police's request was not proportional and claimed that law enforcement authorities are trying to humiliate the former owner of the telecom giant. "They want to break him because it's a probe involving the prime minister," Elovitch's attorney said and added that police investigators pressured his client repeatedly to "change tack."
Elovitch's attorney added that the couple denies all allegations and requested that they be allowed to have a reasonable allowance, claiming that they now have to rely on their friends for their livelihood. The attorney also mentioned that police have seized all of Elovitch's properties.
The State Prosecutor's office has declared that the investigation into Case 4000 will end in six months at the very latest. This means that a final decision on all the Netanyahu cases will actually be made in 2020.
Despite signals from the State Prosecutor's office and the police that a decision on the different Netanyahu probes will be made soon, the State Prosecutor's representative said during Thursday's hearing that Case 4000 will be transferred from the police to the prosecution in six months.
The representative said that "I can't give an exact date yet, but I can say that the intention is to transfer the case from the police to the prosecution sometime soon within the next six months."
Depending on the final say of the attorney general, a decision regarding all three Netanyahu investigations will be made at once (as opposed to a separate decision regarding each case) for several reasons: the similarities between the different cases; the repercussions Case 4000 will have on Case 2000 in terms of coverage of Netanyahu; the fact that several witnesses are relevant to all cases as well as the timing of the different affairs.
Associates of the attorney general have assumed so far that the final decisions on the case will be made in the beginning of 2019, around the same time political officials assumed elections will take place [based on speculations that they will take place earlier than expected, around March or April].