For First Time, Prosecution Directly Links Netanyahu to Telecom Giant Bribery Affair

Favorable coverage 'too gentle a term,' official says of 'case 4000,' involving Bezeq, Walla news site and Netanyahu, who was also the communication minister

Clockwise from top left: Shaul Elovitch, Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu, Shlomo Filber, and Nir Hefez.
Eyal Toueg, Kobi Gideon/GPO, Emil Salman, Tomer Appelbaum

For the first time in the telecom giant case (Case 4000), the State Prosecutor's Office directly linked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the bribery affair.

During the Tuesday hearing, a representative from the State Prosecutor's Office said that the affair is "about harnessing a leading site for favorable coverage and editing in return for regulatory benefits from the Communications Ministry, the communication minister [Netanyahu] and the Director General of the Communications Ministry [state witness Shlomo Filber]."

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"This is a very serious affair of giving and receiving bribes," said Yehudit Tirosh, head of securities department at the State Prosecutor's Office. She was referring to the alleged systematically-skewed coverage of the Netanyahu family on Walla news website. "Favorable coverage is a gentle term."  

Tirosh added that there "is a real suspicion based on evidence of a disruption of the investigation by the two suspects, Hefetz and Elovitch."

Netanyahu's confidants - telecom tycoon Shaul Elovitch and former personal spokesman Nir Hefetz - are two central suspects in Case 4000. Elovitch is suspected of giving and receiving bribes, and illiciting favors totalling over 1 billion shekels ($286 million).

Elovitch, however, had his detention extended until Sunday, as did Nir Hefetz, who allegedly was involved in coordinating the benefits offered to Bezeq in exchange for favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his wife by the Walla website, also owned by Elovitch. The lawyers for both men said they planned to appeal the decision.

The detention of media adviser Ei Kamir, who is also suspected of involvement in facilitating the benefits, was extended until Wednesday.

On Sunday, it was reveled that the judge previously presiding over the case, Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz, is alleged to have coordinated via WhatsApp with Israel Securities Authority lawyer Eran Shacham-Shavit.