Former head of the Communications Ministry, Shlomo Filber, told associates he was fired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2003 after he told Netanyahu's wife, Sara, she wasn't allowed to accept an expensive Bulgari watch as a gift from then-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Israel Television News Company reported on Wednesday.
Sara scolded Filber and instigated his firing after he sent Berlusconi's watch to the State Archives, as required by law, after a 2003 visit to Rome, stated the report. Sara Netanyahu allegedly insisted on keeping the gift.
Filber, who was a senior aide to Netanyahu at the time of the visit to Italy, has now turned state's evidence in a corruption probe of suspected government regulatory favors to Israeli telecom company Bezeq in exchange for positive news coverage of the Netanyahus when Filber served as director general of the Communications Ministry.
Filber told the Israel Television News company, formerly Channel 2 News, Sara Netanyahu called him into the couple's bedroom and screamed at him, demanding that she be allowed to keep the watch. "I panicked, but I told her that I couldn't give her the watch. I told her I already recorded it as a gift, reported it and sent it to the State Archives." Filber added that the prime minister, who was in the room at the time, refrained from saying anything.
Later, Netanyahu called Filber into his office and fired him, saying he needed someone “more professional,” said Filber.
In response to these accusations, Netanyahu posted a 15-year-old newspaper clipping on Twitter “from the archives," which said the premier "immediately" handed over the gift for transfer to the State Archives.
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"He told Berlusconi that the law forbids him from receiving personal gifts," the article said of Netanyahu, who was foreign minister at the time.
The latest allegation from Netanyahu's past comes as the prime minister already faces a tangle of multiple corruption investigations, including police allegations that he accepted bribes in the form of expensive gifts from billionaires, including cigars, jewelry and pink champagne.