Embattled Head of Israel's Communications Ministry Suspends Himself, Will Still Get Paid

Court-ordered suspension, during which Shlomo Filber was not entitled to pay, expired on Sunday; Israel Securities Administration did not ask for extension

File photo: Shlomo Filber in the Knesset on Dec 28, 2016
Emil Salman

The director of the Communications Ministry, Shlomo Filber, has suspended himself voluntarily, but will still be eligible to receive much of his salary.

He informed the Civil Service Commission on Sunday that he was suspending himself from his position without the need for a hearing.

A Tel Aviv court put a restraining order on him in July after his arrest, which prevents him from entering ministry offices; the order has repeatedly been extended at the request of the Israel Securities Authority.

The last extension expired on Sunday and the Securities Authority, which is in the final stages of its investigation into Filber, didn’t request another extension.

While Filber was under a court-ordered suspension, he was not eligible to receive any of his gross monthly salary of 38,000 shekels ($10,750). Now that his suspension is through the Civil Service Commission, he will be eligible to receive half of his salary for the next six months, and his full salary with benefits thereafter.

Filber was put under house arrest in July on suspicion of fraud, breach of trust and securities violations in his relationship with telecom giant Bezeq. He was later released on 400,000 shekels bail.

The Securities Authority asserted that it had amassed evidence indicating that he used his position to fraudulently advance Bezeq’s interests in the Communications Ministry. Findings from the investigation raised suspicions that Filber had consistently provided Bezeq with confidential documents, internal position papers, correspondences and records from internal discussions. The authority stated that its investigation revealed that Bezeq officials regularly provided Filber with their position regarding documents he leaked them, adding their own amendments.

“The functioning of the Communications Ministry has been critically hurt by the investigation of events that don’t even constitute a criminal infraction,” Filber said in his statement to the Civil Service Commission. He called the investigation “unusual in every way” and asserted that his professional judgment was being questioned through a criminal lens even though he was not suspected of facing a conflict of interests.

“This is an investigation seeking to prove that the [retroactive] opinion of Securities Authority investigators about the question how to manage the Communications Ministry can replace that of the director general,” he charged. “A substantive examination of all the director general’s decisions will show that all of them without exception were made ... to implement government policy in the best and most efficient way, in coordination with the communications minister.”