Netanyahu Confidant Tells Police Prime Minister Told Him to Assist Telecom Giant

Shlomo Filber, who made a dramatic state witness deal, tells police he was told 'who to look out for and how' ■ Netanyahu: 'It never happened'

Shlomo Filber at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, February 18, 2018.
\ Moti Milrod

Shlomo Filber, the former director general of the Communications Ministry, has told police that Prime Minister Netanyahu had expressly ordered him to promote regulations to benefit the telecom giant Bezeq, the Israel Television News Company reported on Wednesday night.

“I carried out Netanyahu’s explicit instructions. It wasn’t within my discretion. I received detailed directives. He made it clear who should be taken care of and how,” Filber was cited as telling police.

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Filber was arrested Sunday on suspicions of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and diverting the course of justice as part of an investigation into the ties between Bezeq and government officials, known as Case 4000. He signed a state's evidence deal with the police on Tuesday evening. He is to be kept in custody until Thursday.

Filber was arrested Sunday on suspicions of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and diverting the course of justice as part of an investigation into the ties between Bezeq and government officials, known as Case 4000. He is to be kept in custody until Thursday.

Under the state’s evidence agreement Filber signed Tuesday night, he will not go to trial but will instead face a disciplinary tribunal and be removed from public service. Filber has been giving the police detailed testimony about the prime minister, Bezeq and its internet portal Walla.

A source close to Filber said that his arrest before dawn on Sunday was the turning point for him. Police and Israel Securities Authority investigators accused him of taking bribes together with Netanyahu, in the form of biased, favorable coverage of the prime minister and his wife on the Walla site. In exchange, they said, the Communications Ministry granted benefits and favorable regulations to Bezeq and Walla, whose controlling shares are owned by Shaul Elovitch, Netanyahu’s close friend.

Until then, the source said, Filber had insisted that he was innocent and claimed his decisions had been made in a professional capacity. “On Sunday it gradually transpired that he was willing to admit to himself and others that he was aware he had been placed in this position for a certain purpose – that Netanyahu had offered him the post in order to make him a pawn, knowing he was obedient, and that everything had been planned prior to his appointment,” the source said.

“Filber was brought to the post of Communications Ministry director general by someone who knew he could be manipulated,” added the source. “He understood the whole time that he was cutting corners. Then he asked himself why he had to pay the price. He didn’t receive anything for himself.”

Filber’s agreement to become state’s evidence was the result of a process, the source said. “Now he feels relieved, he feels good and at one with himself. He couldn’t go on playing this game. He’s close to Bibi ideologically and certain that Bibi is God’s gift to Israel,” he said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. “But he’s willing to tell the truth because he understands he shouldn’t have to bear the results of a system he didn’t set up or want, and which in hindsight he admits caused him considerable suffering. He was under extreme pressure.”

A statement made on behalf of Netanyahu denied Filber's claim.

At the request of the police and the Securities Authority, a judge at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court extended the custody of Bezeq CEO Stella Handler and a Bezeq board member, Amikam Shorer, by six days on Wednesday.

The judge said the suspicions in the affair suggest “serious corruption.”

On Thursday the police and the securities agency will ask to keep the other suspects in the case, Elovitch and Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu’s former spokesman, in custody for a longer time period.